When I was in eighth grade I was still attending the Waldorf school. This was something of an embarrassment for me when around other kids–I don’t know why it was, but maybe it was because I knew there was something weird about going to an expensive private school and I didn’t really know how to be thankful for that privilege, so I made fun of it instead.
Anyway, at the end of eighth grade my parents and I were trying to decide what high school I should attend. There was a Waldorf High school in Seattle, but the commute would have been atrocious and the cost as well. I visited the public school and the only part I can really remember is visiting the special ed English class.
The class was writing “poems.” I say “poems,” because they were only poems in the loosest of terms. The prompts were dull and didn’t promote lyrical interest or precision. It was more about comparing things to other things. I wrote about a pig, but I can’t remember what I compared it to.
I remember the people in that classroom being quite nice, but still, I wasn’t impresses with the public school system. I felt as though they were catering to the person who moved the slowest–which, in many ways, it does. Regardless, I would spend countless hours in that classroom over the next 3 years. There was no way to avoid it, and parts of it were actually pretty fun because every once in a while I’d find myself in the class with someone who wasn’t socially awkward–he was behind in some way, but he was also a popular person outside of that classroom. It sorta felt like I was their lifeline, and they were mine, to the outside world of non-special ed courses. It felt good to be that for someone, even just for one class.
Within my novel, which is a series of novelettes, are bridges between each novelette. Until recently these bridges were written in the second-person PoV i.e. “you wake up, stretch and crawl out of bed.” Now, obviously this is a problematic literary device in many ways. Readers typically reject being told what they do, and, more so, how they feel–even if the You character is specified to be an actual person other than the reader. In an attempt to serve the novel rather than my own literary eccentricities, I’ve rewritten these bridges in the third person PoV i.e. “He does this, he does that.” Not only this but I found myself adding great swaths of backstory for my protagonist, who turns out to be something of an anti-hero, unintentionally.
Wow. I had no idea what this characters, what this guy, had been through. I mean I know he had a tough childhood, but he was seriously emotionally abused–completely on accident. But he was also sorta a weird kid to begin with.
I find relating each bridge thematically to the novelette before it a perfect way in which to guide me in this revision process. So, I think a great rule, or at least guideline, is, when revision and noticing the lack of verisimilitude, if you just re-read the chapter or story, that chapter or story will actually let you know what happens next. It will feel right when it is connected thematically and emotionally. I think that’s what I’ve been able to accomplish in the last week, and it’s been extraordinarily satisfying. Sometimes writing through something only gives you more things that don’t fit. Sometimes you have to read your way through it, and stop trying to think critically about technique and craft. That’s what I’ve found, and thus far, it feels right.
So I’ve thought of trying something new.
I’m currently dealing with a lot of revision concerning my novel. Because of this I’ve been thinking a lot about the craft of writing, revision, and technique of fiction. How does an author look at his or her own piece of fiction and say, “Yes, this is the feeling I wish to provoke in my readers,” or, “No, this isn’t working,” and furthermore, “This is how I will fix it.
Now, I’m capable, I think like most writers, of writing a great amount of material quickly. The first draft of this novel came to me within 3 months. About 100,000 words within three months is great, but at some point–this point–I need to look at those 100,000 words and say, “These are the ones I need, and these are the ones I don’t need, in order to tell this story in the most effective manner.” Or, “These are the words the reader will need to feel included in the plot and characters, compelled to keep reading, and interested in the ideas.”
So this is my problem I have comments that something in my manuscript isn’t working. I know why it isn’t working and then I delete, or reword, or rewrite something. I look at the comments again and then, again try to identify whether my new writing is accomplishing what I want within the scene. And that’s a whole different issue! What do I want my readers to feel when they read this piece? Identifying this is identifying my issues with revision. I think if I can understand my own desires in scenes that aren’t working, then I’ll be able to revise with accuracy.
This is the kind of post I want to start making. Each Monday I’ll post on technique and craft. This will most likely will be directed at my novel, but issues I’m dealing with, and how I deal with them, will hopefully be helpful or interesting to others.