Tag Archive | revising

The Chapter Two Curse – An In-Depth Look at Revision

peaceEver since I got back from AWP, I’ve been working on revising my memoir manuscript, Moonchild.

It’s been a real challenge.

But as challenges go, it was relatively okay for the first chapter. A lot of work, yes. Lots of stitching together, inserting, deleting, writing new material, actually getting clearer on memories of the time that I’d forgotten and writing those in, shifting focus, bringing in more background. It took a lot of time and energy but it was fairly pleasant.

Then I got to Chapter Two, and that was more like…well, a clusterfuck.

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Why You Should Write a Totally Horrible Shitty First Novel

91329-87574When I was a junior in high school, I wrote a totally horrible shitty first novel. It was called Affinity for Darkness, and you can read it here because when I was in my early thirties, I posted this totally horrible shitty first novel in public.

It was supposed to have something to do with humility and something to do with toughening up, posting this hot mess of a novel. It was supposed to be an exercise in posting something that I knew was really bad so that I’d feel less self-conscious about posting the work that I hope is passably good. I don’t know how well that worked, especially because I hemmed and hawed and cringed and winced every time I was going to hit “publish” on another post of another chapter of this shitty first novel.

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After the Ecstasy of the Writers Conference Comes the Difficulty of Doing the Work

angry-writerOn Sunday, I came home from the AWP Writers Conference, full of inspiration and ideas and lots and lots of insights on how to fix my old memoir manuscript, Moonchild, which has languished, untouched, for about six years.

I wanted to get right to work, and I knew part of the job would be to integrate the oldest version I had with the most recent. The oldest had all the raw material that I mostly wrote by hand from 2003 to 2005. I transcribed in onto the computer and when that task was daunting, hired someone to help with the transcription. The newest version, from sometime in 2008 had been through years of editing and was more polished and tightly written. I printed out the first chapter of each and started to read.

I got about three pages into one version, if that, and I realized, holy shit, this is going to be a nightmare to deal with. No wonder I haven’t looked at this mess in six years!

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Musings on Artistic Integrity

Another one from July 2008. Still importing the old posts into this newer bloggy blog.

largeThis morning, I read this quote on writer friend Linda’s blog:

“You practice an art to make your soul grow, not to make money or to become famous. And this would include singing in the shower or dancing to the radio or also drawing a caricature of your best friend, or whatever—all this makes your soul grow. And you meet a person who’s done that, whether successfully or not, and you sense a larger soul.” —Vonnegut

Linda and I have been discussing the importance of artistic integrity in recent emails, as we both go through the process of pursuing publication for our book manuscripts. So this quote, about how the deeper purpose is to make your soul grow, just absolutely hit the spot.

I think that writers, possibly more than other types of artists, are confronted with a lot of other people’s opinions before, during and after working on any piece of writing. Critique groups, workshops, classes, readers (as in those who read first drafts and offer commentary), feedback from contests, agents and editors making editorial suggestions, and so on. It seems endless.

And a lot of the time, this is good. You get a different perspective, are shown things you might be blind to, gain insight and new, sometimes ingenious ideas.

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Pausing to Say…

expansionyoimagesBefore I get into the subject at hand, I just want to say that I know my posts here have been pretty sporadic. Sadly, that’s probably going to continue for awhile, possibly through October. This is the busy season at work, and I’m working full-time, and working on my book (reading it through again), polishing the manuscript and the proposal in preparation to send to agents, taking a yoga class, going to a writers group, and oh yeah, having fun.

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Is finished ever really finished?

writing-is-the-artYesterday was my target date. I was supposed to have the next draft of the book totally DONE.

Technically, I made it. Sometime Wednesday morning before work, I finished revising the last paragraph of the last chapter. I want to talk some about the process of writing this book.

It all started the first summer I lived on Orcas Island. I’d just made it out of hell and narrowly escaped homelessness in Seattle. I was offered a kitchen job at the camp that offered housing, which was my own room to myself, and food, and year-round work, sort of. I was staying somewhere, for the first time in years. I wasn’t fully on my feet but for once I didn’t have to worry about basic survival.

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I Work So Much Better When I’m Working

busyimagesIt’s a proven fact in my life: I get more done creatively when I’m working. I work at a YMCA camp, doing dishes and prep cook stuff. The days when I’m scheduled to go in, I get up, put in some hours on my book, take care of errands, and go in for my evening shift.

On the days that I don’t have work, I take naps, go on instant messenger, do nothing, tell myself I’ll get to my book later. I think the downtime is good for sure, and that my mind, heart, body and spirit need the rest and relaxation. I just find it a bit odd that I get my best creative work done when I’m also working.

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