Through this series that revisits 19th century authors, BriteLitesBiz invites discussion of topics that remain important to WordSmiths. This sixth and final excerpt from Robert Louis Steven’s “The Morality of The Profession of Letters” gives a thought-provoking perspective on perfection in writing.
Complete text of Stevenson’s “The Morality of The Profession of Writing”
There is no book perfect, even in design; but there are many that will delight, improve, or encourage the reader. On the one hand, the Hebrew psalms are the only religious poetry on earth; yet they contain sallies that savour rankly of the man of blood.
On the other hand, Alfred de Musset had a poisoned and contorted nature; I am only quoting that generous and frivolous giant, old Dumas, when I accuse him of a bad heart; yet when the impulse under which he wrote was purely creative, he could give us works like Carmosine or Fantasio, in which the last note of the romantic comedy seems to have been found again to touch and please us.
When Flaubert wrote Madame Bovary, I believe he thought chiefly of a somewhat morbid realism; and behold! The book turned in his hands into a masterpiece of appalling morality.
But the truth is, when books are conceived under a great stress, with a soul of ninefold power, nine times heated and electrified by effort, the conditions of our being are seized with such an ample grasp, that, even should the main design be trivial or base, some truth and beauty cannot fail to be expressed.
Out of the strong comes forth sweetness; but an ill thing poorly done is an ill thing top and bottom. And so this can be no encouragement to the knock-kneed, feeble-wristed scribes, who must take their business conscientiously or be ashamed to practice it.
Okay, so I’ll try really hard not to be knock-kneed and feeble-wristed during National Novel Writing Month. How about you?
Sandra’s Prep for National Novel Writing Month – 3rd Steps
Thirty days and nights of literary abandon.
Okay, NaNoWriMo starts in ten days! If you’d like to take try drafting a 50,000-word novel in November, register here.
Decide where the story unfolds. Settings can change after the 1st draft is done, but – for now – in what real or make-believe places will characters either succeed or fail. (General, inept failure isn’t so great. Heroic, magnificent failure can be awesome.)
Sketch about a dozen stages in the story’s progress, from the main character realizing they’ve got a problem to resolution. This process can be helped by deciding what BIG thing is at stake for the main character. The Hero’s Journey is a tried and true, millennia-old crowd pleaser.
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