Friday Chatter by Darlinleo

So, yesterday Jlly brought up the topic I love to hate: Revision.

Truth is, no writer can pen the perfect sentence on the first try, much less the entirety of a short story, poem, or novel. It’s impossible. Truth is, revision is as much an art as storytelling, and it’s probably the number one killer of would-be authors.

“The best advice I can give on this is, once it’s done, to put it away until you can read it with new eyes. Finish the short story, print it out, then put it in a drawer and write other things. When you’re ready, pick it up and read it, as if you’ve never read it before. If there are things you aren’t satisfied with as a reader, go in and fix them as a writer: that’s revision.” — Neil Gaiman

When I first read this bit of genius by the genius himself, I screamed at the page, WELL WHO THE BLOODY HELL HAS THE PATIENCE FOR THIS SORT OF THING, NEIL!

Then I wrote a few (brief) fictional tales, put them away for years (only because I got busy and distracted, not because I suddenly developed the patience of a true genius), and I wrote more things. By the time I sat down to read through those stories again, and was quite comfortable with the idea of rewriting them, only a few paragraphs of the originals were recognizably salvageable. Being that I had recently revised, reorganized, and submitted a fifty-plus page poetry manuscript, I thought this project wouldn’t be all that bad.

“It takes me six months to do a story. I think it out and write it sentence by sentence — no first draft. I can’t write five words but that I can change seven.” — Dorothy Parker

Well, bless her, ’cause I never got past two months of doing that very blasted thing. Those darling characters of mine that whispered their names, their fears, and their greatest loves to me in the dark, could not withstand such mathematical impossibilities. Revision killed my darlings, I didn’t have to. Here’s what I’ve noticed: I have a much deeper patience with poetry than with fiction.

I can write fiction, I just can’t make it good. – darlinleo

Have y’all noticed a marked difference in your revision skills (and intestinal fortitude) being dependent on genre? Is it possible to overcome such writerly adversity? Tell me all about it.

 


Hello and welcome to Brigit’s Flame, new followers! We look forward to reading you soon.

Congrats to Jlly & Bluegerl for tying up the game this week! New arrivals to the Flame: never fear, y’all can still read and comment on the stories offered up for Act I, the links are still open.

And! It’s not too late to share your writing for the second week of our April contest! Entries for Act II are due Sunday night. #gowrite, y’all.

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Brigit's Flame is an ever-evolving online writing community. We offer writing prompts and inspiration while sharing our own writing and reading observations with an audience of writers, poets, and readers. We encourage peer readership and constructive criticism for all of our members. Our motivation is simple -- creativity is a precious resource to be nurtured and the results of the creative process can grow into something beautiful when shared. All writing you share with us remains your property. Come check us out on Brigits Flame Writing Community on Wordpress and be sure to follow our activity on Brigits Flame on facebook, Brigits Flame on tumblr, or Brigits Flame on twitter. We are everywhere you are.
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4 Responses to Friday Chatter by Darlinleo

  1. “I can write fiction, I just can’t make it good. – darlinleo”
    I call bullshit.

    Don’t get me wrong, your post above is compelling to read, humorous, and bears responding to. Good blogging today!

    But I call bullshit on your cute little quote.

    Be a poet because you want to be a poet. Your poetry has improved wonderfully in the approximately seven years I’ve been reading your work. Your growth in the genre has made me actually learn to appreciate poetry when I was previously inclined to ignore it. You have a beautiful outlook and perspective when you’re putting words together. I like the way you think.

    Give up on fiction because you don’t want to write it or don’t enjoy the subject matter – but do not say you can’t make fiction good. You pulled those old stories out and barely gave them a chance. Margaret Atwood did not sit down to start writing at age whatever and produce some wonderful masterpiece on her first go. You have to work at it. You have been working for seven years on poetry and now you have a poetic voice that moves people. Put the same amount of work into fiction and you’ll get there – IF that is what you want to write.

    Maybe you didn’t want to write about Zombies and the supernatural. Maybe it’s what titillates you, but it is not what your soul wants. You need to invest time in fiction for characters and situations that mean more to you than mere amusement. Maybe in 10 years you can flippantly write some pulpy kind of thing, or maybe you never will because writing goes deeper for you than that. You were touching on things like being a part of the land and the spiritual aspects of the journey left behind by your grandfather, and you packaged them in a supernatural adventure. Maybe those two things just don’t work together for you because one means so much and the other is just a trifle.

    Just don’t give up until you really consider why you couldn’t write THOSE stories. And don’t you dare tell me it’s because you can’t write – because I know that to be pure bullshit.

    Ranted with love.

    Like

    • I appreciate the loving rant, and you do offer up some hopeful ideas of what to do in the future. That said, I genuinely wonder if other writers have the same hair-pulling difficulty with revising varying genres?

      That difficulty, the stonewalling inability to actually put on the page what I saw, heard, and felt from the characters, was an excruciating experience that caught me completely off guard — if asked prior to the experience which would have been a more trying exercise in revision, I would have thought the very personal poetry and nonfiction would have been.

      Boy, that guess would have been wrong (and the very personal still took more than three years of work to accumulate and a full month of six to eight hour days to revise and organize!).

      Like

  2. Also, just a little appendage to the commentage. Consider Flannery O’Connor.
    I’m not saying your long fiction suffers where your short stories shine. I’m just saying that if she had crossed her name off the list of writers because her novels weren’t all that, we would have missed out on ‘Good Country People’ and some truly awesome short stories. So there’s that.

    Like

  3. Pingback: Weekend Wrap-up | Brigit's Flame

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