Revising Leah

May 20, 2008

Getting Preachy and Pretentious

Filed under: Uncategorized — J.M. Reep @ 2:09 pm
Tags: , , , , , ,

As a writer, I have a number of annoying habits. One is that I sometimes get “preachy”; that is, I make these grandiose declarations and pronouncements that might sound clever when I write them, but when I read them back they just sound really, really pretentious. Last year, when I was working on The Spring, I had to excise several of these pretentious passages from my story, and as I revise Leah, I’m finding that a few of them made their way into the 1996 draft.

One example is the very beginning of chapter 3, which describes Leah’s first day of high school. I began that chapter with an overblown paragraph of pronouncements about how high school is an important day in the lives of every young person and blah, blah, blah. It sounded really stupid so I’ve deleted most of it and replaced it with a couple of lines more related to the progression of the story. These I combined with most of the text from the second paragraph to form a new opening paragraph for the chapter. Here it is:

The final days before the first day of school passed quickly, as though time itself had been accelerated. Each day found Leah slightly more nervous and worried about what was to come. She supposed that high school would be an awful experience for her, but only because the other option-that it would be wonderful-seemed so unlikely. On the Sunday night before the start of school when Leah was in her bed waiting to fall asleep, her imagination terrorized her by fabricating all sorts of wild scenarios which increased her anxiety. Suppose she were to get lost, or lose her schedule of classes? What if the room number of one of her classes was switched, but no one notified her and she found herself in the wrong class? Would the teachers be friendly or mean? And what about the other students? What could she expect from them? Her ninth grade class would be almost three times the size of her eighth grade class which meant she would be surrounded by unfamiliar faces everywhere she looked. She soothed her panicked mind by entertaining the idea that, as unlikely as it might seem, she could make a friend on the first day. Anything seemed possible, and everything was frightening.

Hopefully this is a much better opening paragraph for a chapter than what I had.

I had another one of these pretentious passages towards the end of the novel when Leah, her mother, and her grandmother go shopping the day after Thanksgiving. I wrote some dumb paragraph extolling the wonders of American consumerism (or something to that effect). I’m not sure if it remains in the draft that I posted a couple weeks ago, because it was one of the first things I changed when I began this revising project. Indeed, passages like these are one of the reasons why I’m undertaking this project. They are stupid, amateurish mistakes that I’m embarrassed to have made.

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1 Comment »

  1. (WordPress took me here.)

    I like the paragraph. Everyone makes mistakes; you shouldn’t be too hard on yourself.

    Comment by leafless — May 20, 2008 @ 3:26 pm


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