Revisiting James Jones…Fast writing…
I am reading a book that has been on my “To read” list for a number of years. “The Pistol”, the 1959 classic by one of my favorite authors, James Jones, has flown under my reading radar for the past decade or so. I once located a copy in a used book shop some years ago, but was forced to put it back when I was told that the shop did not accept credit cards. When I returned an hour or so later, with the required three dollars, the book was gone. I forgot about it for a long time, thinking that the book was probably out of print, but for some reason, the other day on a whim, I searched Amazon for it. I found that it is alive and well, with both new and used copies available, as well as a Kindle download. (I opted for the Kindle download.)
If you haven’t read much Jones, or if you haven’t even heard of him, the Illinois native wrote largely about his wartime experiences as a soldier in World War II, having actually been present at the Bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. His award winning novel “From Here to Eternity” which won the U.S. National Award for fiction ten years later, is heralded by some to be the finest work of fiction to come from the Second World War.
“The Pistol” is more novella than novel, running a scant 148 pages. It is a great read about a young soldier stationed in the Schofield Barracks (Jones’ old Army digs on Oahu). The book begins with the attack on Pearl Harbor and follows PFC Richard Mast during the turbulent early hours of the War, when it was perceived that the air attack was simply the prelude to an all out invasion of Hawaii. Anyone with an interest of life in the pre-WWII U.S. Army, or in military history will enjoy this book.
“A writer should write what he has to say and not speak it again.” So said Ernest Hemingway in Stockholm, Sweden in his written (although not personally delivered), speech accepting the Nobel Prize for literature in 1954.
I venture to suggest that for most of us, simply writing what we have to say is not easy. To help improve my own writing endeavors, I went searching for suggestions on how to improve my process. In so doing, I came across a great piece by Jim Denney about “Fast Writing”. It deserves a reblog, so you can read it here. After reading this, as well as a couple of other blogs about “Fast writing” it begins to make sense. The longer that we tweak sentences, and adjust format (something we technical writers just can’t seem to get enough of), that little voice in the back of your writer’s head whispers to you, ever so gently, “this is crap…delete, delete.”
I truly think that Denney is onto something here and I’m going to try it, as I continue with my latest work. I will note my progress here. In the meantime if you have any suggestions for keeping your story moving forward, and out of the trash, please feel free to comment.