Work in Progress #7: Writing Thin

CNW Bagel ShopAs I was plugging ahead with the narrative outline for Chapter 6, I discovered I was “writing thin.” As thorough as I try to be with my research before sitting down to write, there are numerous spots along the way when my writing gets “thin” – it becomes hesitant, tentative, and starts to sound like an encyclopedia article. It’s a sign to me that I haven’t done enough background research for the particular chapter I’m working on and, if I don’t stop and remedy the situation, I’ll be very unhappy with the finished chapter.

I already know my subject inside out and I’ve done piles of reading on the particular time period in which my subject lived. But this chapter includes a court trial and I need to know exactly what was said at the trial and how the newspapers covered it. I also need to know a little more about one of the minor players in the trial.

When it comes to research-before-writing, all I can do is the big stuff. It’s when I’m knee deep in a particular chapter that I realize what details I might be missing. It’s frustrating, once I’m in “writer’s mode,” to come to a full stop and do what feels like backtracking. In this case, I’ll have to comb through the New York Times online and then make a trip to the library and pick my way through the Reader’s Guide searching for anything that might have a bearing on this courtroom scene. I could have done a “slide-by;” I could have just summarized based on the information I already have in hand. I could have “written thin.” But that’s not what makes a good book. And I want this to be a good book.