Monday, July 24, 2006

Sorry, friends, for the downer last post. The heat was really depressing my spirits. It's slightly cooler, just enough degrees that I feel more optimistic today.

Anyways, I got to spend some time with one of my friends who I went through my MFA program at Bennington with. It's always fun to hang out with people who want to talk about writing with you from the same place--of one who also feels the need to create. As we talked, something occurred to me that felt sort of revolutionary to my way of thinking.

For the longest time, my biggest struggle with writing has always been revision. I would resist it and resist it and struggle with it, and in many cases simply abandon whole stories and even novels. I've also done my fair share of revision--you can't get anything published without doing it--but much of it was done out of a sense of obligation rather than joy. But after meeting with my agent in June and getting her suggestions for revision on The Night Oracle, which were EXACTLY what I wanted to do to the book, the revision came simply. So I asked myself, why? Why was this revision so easy? And then it hit me. Because I knew exactly what I wanted to do.

This seems to be the key. When you know HOW to revise, the revision is a joy. It's carving away the rough edges to reveal the beauty within. But when you are uncertain about how to revise something, open to all the varied possibilities, revision is overwhelming. And this is a really important distinction.

I made the major plot revision for my novel in about two weeks. But then there were other, smaller issues that I had to sit and ponder, just turn around in my brain the way you would suck on a jawbreaker. As soon as the answer for a particular issue came clear, i could write. Then I would wait some more. This is how my revisions have gone. Sometimes you know what needs to be done intuitively. Sometimes it takes feedback. But in the case of revision, knowing really IS half the battle. In fact, it's three-quarters.

Care to share your feelings/thoughts/attitudes on revision? Please do.



At 7:17 AM, Blogger Patrushka said...

I'm not a writer but what you say about revision makes a lot of sense. And I'll apply it to other revisions I have to do at my job.
When I have to re-read either a report or a letter or even an e-mail, I always feel "bored". But I'll put the stress on making it more beautiful and precise and I'll probably feel better doing it.

From the point of view of you, writer, you can even find it the best step of all! It makes me think of a painter choosing a frame for his paint or the composer doing the final arrangements for his piece to be played by a special instrument.

The key seems to be in the intention. In the attitude you have when you sit down to do it... as in many other moments of our life.


At 3:50 PM, Blogger tracyb said...

Look at me, I'm on your blog..
Aah, revision. I think it depends on where your love lies. I HATE building the framework of a story, all that stupid plot stuff, but once I have that and can get to the revision stage I'm happy(ish). Being able to mold and manipulate, elaborate and roll around in the language is what revision is for me. NOT knowing what to do, while frustrating at times, is part of the joy.
I agree, intention is the key. Just about always, really.

At 3:55 PM, Blogger Wyatt Bessing said...

To me the revision process comes more easily when I remember the "vision" part, when I sit back and see the whole piece for how it all is, curves and contours and sharp spots flowing together. I ask myself if the structure mirrors the theme or conflict and if any elements seem missing or extraneous. For places that seem undeveloped, I love Natalie Goldberg's technique of taking a word or image from the story and freewriting on it for 10 minutes to see what comes up.

BTW, I moved to Santa Rosa from Marin, and it hit 108 here this weekend. So glad it's cooling off.

Stay cool,

At 4:00 PM, Blogger Jordan E. Rosenfeld said...

Patricia, I like your "revisionist" attitude about your life :)

Tracy: I won't tell anyone that ou stopped by. I have decided that you and I combined would make a perfect writer. I love the plot stuff and struggle to make the language/character development fit the plot :)

Wyatt: Sounds like Revision comes easy to you, that's great. And yes, I too am glad to see that we're looking at the 80s for the foreseeable future. That sounds like heaven!


At 6:48 AM, Blogger Stephanie said...

I think I've tried to respond to this post so many times that I think I've already responded. ;)


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