This is where life, for writers, lives

Saturday, February 20, 2016

A few days ago I wrote here of my glorious mess—a novel I'd fought with and fought for over the stretch of a long time.

The first thing one has to do, when going back to a set-aside draft, is to set aside the shame one might feel at all that had been broken. The second thing one has to do is to dig in, to relish the process, to remember how much fun editing is. Not just minor line-by-line editing, mind you. But the upending of structure, the radical remaking of the voice(s), the ruthless deletions of scenes that had felt (be honest) soft when they first appeared on the page. Soft or obviously transitional. Soft or rather dull.

These past few days, plunged deeply in, I have discovered this: I had used the wrong tense in almost every instance. I had allowed the creeping in of an arch—and distant—voice (damn you, Beth Kephart, and your love for the lyric). I had buried the human story by focusing on the awesome technology that I had so proudly discovered and researched. I had allowed myself to go mythical when myths weren't actually needed. I had forgotten the power of a single, necessary kiss.

This is where life, for writers, lives, I think. Everything else—the tours, the fame, the sales—is secondary to being engaged with the story at hand. Secondary to pushing farther, going deeper, finding out what one is actually capable of. The writer remaking a story is the writer redefining not just the book, but herself.

All of which can happen only after we writers set a "finished" draft aside, and then return to it—vulnerable and humble—months or even years later.


Victoria Marie Lees said...

Absolutely, Beth! This is where I am in my memoir about attending college with five children in tow. "Pushing farther, going deeper." I wish you all the luck with your writing in progress. Thanks for the confirmation that this is a necessary part of writing.

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