How about a biology lesson today?
Anyone heard of Connective Tissue? Connective Tissue maintains the form of the body along with its internal organs, providing cohesion and support. It is a scaffolding for other cells to rest and where nerve tissue and muscle tissue are embedded. The entire body is supported from within by a skeleton composed of bone, a type of connective tissue able to resist stress due to its laminated structure and hardness. The individual bones of the skeleton are held firmly together by ligaments, and muscles are attached to bone by tendons, both of which are examples of dense connective tissue. At the joints, the bones are covered with cartilage, a connective tissue with a substance that gives it a consistency adapted to permitting smooth movements between surfaces.
Additionally, blood vessels and nerves travel through connective tissue. Some types of connective tissue play an important role in providing oxygen and nutrients from capillaries to cells, and carbon dioxide and waste substances from cells back into circulation. They also allow organs to resist stretching and tearing forces. Most significantly, our body’s immunological defenses are found within connective tissue.
Our organs…heart, lungs, liver, spleen, kidneys, brain…might give us life, but without the connective tissue, what kind of life would it really be?
That’s all very interesting – you say – but what’s my point?
Those of you who follow my posts regularly know that I’m deep in the throes of a first draft. This is my 4th book (none published yet), and consequently many of the posts I’ve been uploading lately have revolved around my writing process…specifically the first draft kind. I’ve talked about my “Blow & Go” method of creating a first draft, and today I’m using a different analogy to delve a little bit deeper.
I purposely leave out a lot of connective tissue when I begin a new project. Not all of it of course, as the skeletal framework is representative of my outline, but a good portion won’t be layered in until the 2nd or 3rd drafts. That’s one reason anyone reading the first version of my work would be unimpressed…to put it kindly. Character arcs will seem choppy and uneven, mood setting devices completely absent, descriptive language almost non-existent, and the pacing will resemble the heart rate of an elderly two-pack-a-day man with arrhythmia.
If I’m shooting for an 85,000 word novel, then my first draft will usually come in around 60K, and that’s so I leave enough room to surgical implant the connective tissue. This analogy makes it sound like I’m simply adding filler or padding, but in my opinion the connective tissue is what turns an average novel into a great one, or a great one into a spectacular one. The proper amount of added character traits and quirks bolsters an interesting personality into someone memorable. A couple words here and there, or a succinctly placed narrative, make the words flow from the page as opposed to being pulled from it.
Be careful though, too much connective tissue and you could end up with a dangling participle! :)