Chess and fiction
I started to write what I thought would be a short blog entry about a nuts-and-bolts topic last week.
I stopped when it got to 600 words and showed no signs of slowing down.
The topic was related to economy of prose. Go ahead and snicker, get it out of your system, I’ll wait.
Done? Good. Here’s what happened. I wrote a sentence in my WIP. As soon as I wrote it I went in and cut out a verb phrase as being an action the reader would understand in context without being overtly spelled out.
A simple enough on-the-fly edit, of the sort I do constantly. This time, though, I decided to be all mentor-y and to explain what I’d done and why…in what appears now to be a book-length format.
Which brings me to chess. Like chess, writing fiction has surprisingly few rules, and those rules can be easily explained…up until the moment you try to apply them.
Then the question shifts from “what’s the rule” to “but what do I do here.” And there’s rarely a simple way of explaining that, even though the decision-making process is often near-instantaneous. That’s why there are a zillion books on how to write (and how to play chess, for that matter). That’s also why things like critique groups and editors and beta readers matter so much. Unlike chess, writing doesn’t have opponents, or clear win/lose outcomes you can trace to a single bad move.
I will probably return to the original blog post at some point after I get the draft of the WIP done. With some cuts.
Ancient Battle Chess board diagram from http://chessvariants.wikidot.com/start, used under Creative Commons license.