When writing, embrace abstraction

by Mar 4, 2021blog, Composition

Bring to mind A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. 

What do you imagine? 

I think first of the story. The three ghosts, Tiny Tim, Christmas Eve.

Then I see images. Some are from my imagination. Others are from illustrations books or from any of the half dozen movie versions I’ve seen. 

I have sense memory of a physical book. The edition I had as a kid was a heavy, leather-bound volume with a musty smell and a fancy typeface. 

Finally, I remember the parodies. Oscar Madison as Ebenezer Madison and Fred Sanford as Ebenezer Sanford.

But none of those things is what A Christmas Carol IS. A Christmas Carol is the arrangement of words set in fixed form by the author. 

It’s those words from which the story springs. It’s those words that can be adapted by others into scripts, whether serious adaptations for the screen comedic derivatives pieces.

What does this have to do with us ordinary mortals?

Holding a vision for the text seems the greatest struggle my editing clients have. 

Some people in the grip of this struggle have a very strong sense of what they want to communicate. Their writing comes across like they’re writing about the piece they want to produce, rather than writing the piece itself.

Others focus on the physical. As soon as they hit that word count, they’re reading to polish.

“It’s so abstract!” one client recently complained.

Why, yes, it is. 

Barbara Ruth Saunders is a writer, editor, and writing coach.