Posts tagged with "revision" - Faerye Net 2011-03-09T21:59:14+00:00 Felicity Shoulders Underpopulated 2011-03-09T21:59:14+00:00 2011-03-09T22:12:06+00:00 <p><a href="" target="links">My dear friend Jeannine</a>, a speculative poet of great talent, is also a vigilant <a href="" target="links">lit-blogger</a>. It was she who alerted me to this <a href="" target="links">interview the amazing <a href="" target="links">Duotrope</a> did with the fantastic <a href="" target="links">Sheila Williams</a>, editor of <a href="" target="links"><em>Asimov&#8217;s</em></a>.</p> <p>Now, I&#8217;ll own Jeannine brought it to my attention because I am mentioned therein, but something else about it caught my eye. In part of her response to the question &#8220;What is the best advice you can give people who are considering submitting work to your publication?&#8221; Sheila said: &#8220;Most stories are underpopulated. A lot of the tale can be told through the interaction of characters.&#8221;</p> <p>I don&#8217;t think Sheila knows it, but she has my number here. (She doesn&#8217;t know it unless I&#8217;ve mentioned it to her. I&#8217;m a procrastinating perfectionist, so she doesn&#8217;t see a story from me until I&#8217;m pretty damn proud of it.) I have learned from hard experience that when a story is just not working &#8212; it doesn&#8217;t want to unfold onto the page, or the first draft is flat as a board &#8212; adding a character often fixes it.</p> <p>I actually wrote a story draft last year where only one character appeared in the flesh (a few more via videoconference. And a cat.) Did it need to have only one character? Was it about solitude, loneliness, shut-ins, or anything of the sort? No. In fact, having only one character made the story flat and unengaging. Once I added a second character, the draft started working and more conflict started seeping in. I hardly need tell you that a story needs conflict like a sled needs snow. With a second character on the scene and a few more revisions, I deemed that story ready to go to Sheila, and it will appear next month <a href="" target="links">in the June issue</a>.</p> <p>I wish I could say that that was the first time I&#8217;ve needed to add more characters to a story, but in its first version, <a href="" target="links">&#8220;Conditional Love&#8221;</a> was missing one of its most important characters. I threw out that version and rewrote from scratch. It took a lot of revision even so, but the story found its heart as soon as I wrote Minerva in.</p> <p>Like most specific writing advice, this doesn&#8217;t apply to everyone. I know I&#8217;ve talked to other writers who have to cut characters out routinely. Maybe my tendency to draw a small cast onto a stage is related to my tendency to write spare drafts that need to be expanded &#8212; another habit many writers don&#8217;t share. But I am pleased to report that like many bad habits, underpopulation can be minimized through practice. I haven&#8217;t had to stop mid-story to rip up and reweave with a new character for a while, and hopefully I&#8217;ll continue the streak. Even though I&#8217;m alone with the page, my characters don&#8217;t have to be.</p> Today I "finished" my novel 2010-12-15T22:00:20+00:00 2010-12-15T22:02:35+00:00 <p>I also &#8220;finished&#8221; my novel, for the record, last year at about this time in longhand, and some time later on the computer. But I wouldn&#8217;t let anyone read it, so the sense of &#8220;finished&#8221; which applied &#8212; has beginning, middle and end &#8212; was pretty farcical. Also, I later determined I&#8217;d chickened out on the ending and needed a new one. This &#8220;finishing&#8221; is a big, thorough revision &#8212; not the first, but the most thoroughgoing &#8212; with giant chunks of new material and a new end. It&#8217;s a whole thing, which someone is allowed to read. That&#8217;s today&#8217;s definition of &#8220;finish&#8221;.</p> <p>This is the reason I hesitate to say anything about the state of the novel in public &#8212; or at least on the internet, which is like in public but louder and more persistent &#8212; the state is not determined. I know that what I have now is not what I&#8217;ll eventually send out. (Beta readers, start your red pencils! Yes, I know none of you probably use red pencils, and one of you at least probably doesn&#8217;t own one.) I know it will require more work. But getting it to this point, the point where I feel comfortable asking anyone, even Ryan, to read the whole thing and tell me what he thinks, was a job of work. Being here is a great and dizzy relief.</p> <p>And how easy it was, now that it&#8217;s behind me! All that brain-mashing and despair, and really, it wasn&#8217;t so hard. All I had to do was <em>write</em> it! This must be the writer&#8217;s version of the endorphin rush that makes you forget the pains of childbirth. This is how we end up having more novels, and forgetting the horrible developmental stages we thought would never end. Just check back with me when the manuscript is in its Terrible Twos, when all the beta readers tell me how much they hate it. Then we&#8217;ll see who airily speaks of knocking out another novel or three!</p> Revision party-hardy 2008-04-05T20:42:45+00:00 2009-09-18T11:09:35+00:00 <p><em>&#8220;Revision isn&#8217;t cleaning up after the party, revision is the party.&#8221; &mdash; William Matthews</eM></p> <p>The quote above is well-distributed in writing circles. When it was last passed back to me, by my current advisor, I remembered the shape of it, worn smooth and familiar by many fingers. I also suddenly recognized it as very true.</p> <p>In this <a href="" target="links">grad school adventure</a> of mine, I&#8217;ve changed as a person, and gotten to know myself a lot better. I&#8217;ve also written a <em>lot</em>. With the exception of the microfictions with which this site is peppered, I had only written three short stories when I entered the program. Three. I&#8217;m now running about twelve, not counting microfictions and stories I&#8217;m not sure will work out. And yes, I love to write. I like messing with stories, being able to fall asleep daydreaming and call it work, stealing a moment or an image and making it into something of my own. But revision? Revision is pure play. </P><p>Creating for the first time is self-conscious work, full of doubt and soldiering on through the frustration. When you revise, you know you have something. You may not know what it is, but its promise is as physically present as a weight you roll in your hands. You feel you&#8217;ve accomplished something, even as you try to figure out what. I love revising.</p> <p>And this is the season of revision. I graduate in a few months. My thesis needs to be ship-shape to embark on the library shelves, and besides those stories, I find myself itching to revisit, revamp and renovate others. In between nervous trips to big-box bookstores (my first publication will be out soon, but I don&#8217;t know the precise date) I find myself remembering this story I laid aside first semester, or even my third short story ever, which I wrote for the application process. I imagine new paths into them, look at them from far off and try to squint out their shapes. Yesterday I made a list of firm to-dos and wishful goals for April. The first word on about half of the entries? &#8220;Revise.&#8221;</p>