The Making of a Novel: Letting it Breathe

Ive been taking my 37 pages and trying to let them breathe -- to give the material more space, more air, more room to come to life. I'm doing this now, before I move to far into the story, because I have a tendency to cut things too short in my work. I cut chapters short, and conversations, and descriptions -- so I figure I might as well address these problems as I go rather than wait until I have 200 pages that all need to breathe more.

I think of the word unfold. The mother of a friend of mine used to always tell her to let life unfold. I love that advice and that image. It makes me think of a flower unfolding from a bud. It's preposterous to think that you could rush that process, or somehow improve upon it. I try to capture that feeling in my stories, as well -- letting them unfold on the page to their own natural rhythm.

I think Anton Chekhov's famous writing advice -- "Don't tell me the moon is shining; show me the glint of light on broken glass" (and the Mark Twain quote like it: "Don't say the old lady screamed -- bring her on and let her scream.") -- is all about letting things unfold. It's about showing, not telling, obviously. But he's also saying, let the reader see it, and feel it. Let it unfold on the page. Let it breathe.