“No matter how long you’ve been at it, you’ll always start from scratch.”
Recently I came across that quote from Jeffrey Eugenides. You may know him for his book, Middlesex, one of Oprah’s featured readings. That’s not why I’ve put it here, though.
As an author it struck me that’s true not only for every book, but for every chapter; even every word. I mean, consider this snippet from the beginning of my first Elka Dahl, private eye series, Deceit:
…the prostitute put her lips to the man’s ear and his head whipped around, eyes searching the darkness where she cowered. He grinned, then his mouth opened wide in full-throated laughter, and that’s when the blonde snatched open the door and bolted back inside.
What if I’d written this instead?:
…the prostitute put her lips to the man’s ear and his head whipped around, eyes searching the darkness where she stood firm. He gasped, then his mouth opened wide in a full-throated roar, and that’s when the blonde slammed the door and strode toward him.
Do you see what I mean? One change of word and I have to start from scratch again – it changes the whole story. That’s why I love words; they’re so incredibly powerful. And I’m really mindful of that in my books…and in my life.