Thursday, March 12, 2015

What's Been Going On With Me (djh)

Hey, so it turns out that revision is the extra-hard part of writing a novel! This is the stage I had avoided for LITERALLY* DECADES. (Even in college I never revised; I just rewrote. I threw on another coat of first-draft.)

Once, never having had a Pilates class, I tried out a Pilates machine that isolates the abs. It turned out that I basically HAD no abs. I've always relied on other muscle groups (most catastrophically my neck). Take away those options and I could not budge that machine.

To revise, I need to find a mental space between my day-job mode (proofreader/copy-editor) and my creative-writer mode -- or some way to switch back and forth without losing either energy. I need to reexamine my own work without my inner critic dismissing the whole drafty project as garbage and sunk costs.

You know how one can usually read one's own handwriting, even if no-one else can? That's the other reason it's so hard to edit oneself: because I KNEW WHAT I MEANT. A few simple words may flood my brain with imagery, but no-one else is necessarily going there with me. "That day in the rain" has everything inside it for me and nothing for you -- or it might trigger a completely different flood of associations, to which I have no access unless you write your own story. (Which you should totally do! I recommend keeping it very short, and making a thorough outline.)

I keep groping blurrily for the imagery that will transfer across the barrier, yet will not be a cliche.

"even if I could put down accurately the thing that I saw and enjoyed, it would not give the observer the kind of feeling it gave me. I had to create an equivalent for what I felt about what I was looking at -- not copy it." ---Georgia O'Keeffe

It is brutally hard work and most of it is invisible. I don't look any different when I am tweezing the slivers of glass out of my own flayed-open heart than I did when I was just goofing off. My loved ones do not get what is taking so long.

This week I finished a second draft. It is shorter and possibly tighter than the first draft. It might be missing whatever the good parts were, whatever elusive magic kept me striving. I have no idea. I can't look at it right now (only partly because my Beta Reader took her copy home and I am out of paper). I will probably go for a lot of walks. I do not know what is next.

*NON-FIGURATIVELY

2 comments:

Haggis McBrylcreem said...

Did you kill your darlings? I'm told you're supposed to kill your darlings. Though I've always said Fuck that and bought my darlings ice cream.

doug mayo-wells said...

FWIW I paid for a couple of professional critiques of short stories (I did it via Kickstarter rewards for anthologies I backed and chose editors/writers whose work I thought was at least somewhat sympatico) -- and it was incredibly helpful -- way better than trying to course correct from one-liners in rejection notes. Showed me weaknesses I was totally unaware of, with solid recs on how to shore up.