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.
I’m increasingly infatuated with scene. I know I’ve had trouble in writing scene in my novel, but I seem to becoming to grips with how to go about nullifying this. My question today is about where you add background, info, history within your fictional plot. How do you know when or how much to add. Stephen King (horrible person to compare your own writing too) seems to go on long, deep historical segways for his characters–particularly in The Stand, which I have grown to love.
So what are some techniques in balancing scene and history/info?
Last night I ran into Priscilla Long at a reading at Elliott Bay Book Store. She’s the author of the Writer’s Portable Mentor, great book about writing in my opinion, with great technique advice and exercises. Anyway, my story The Lost Doll, was greatly influenced by her writings about revision. Long says revision is difficult because: it asks writers to contemplate not only the meaning of their sentences, paragraphs, pages, chapters, and manuscript as a whole–revision demands thought upon every word in the manuscript.
She goes on to give some great ways on how to revise. This helped me greatly, as I feel as though many writers are told, “revision is writing,” but they aren’t told exactly what revision is either. Long gives framework. First debate with oneself over every adverb and adjective–then just delete all adverbs and keep one out of every ten adjectives: unpack all adverbs and most adjectives so the piece has more feeling. Then, and this is my favorite part, rewrite every sentence in the piece in as many ways as possible without losing the meaning–or lose the meaning and find greater meaning.
This is what I did with my piece, The Lost Doll, and now it’s being published in Best New Writing 2016, an anthology. I told Priscilla how much her book had helped me and how my piece was being published. She smiled and laughed and asked if I could sent the piece to her. So nice. She said, “Alex, I love when people tell me stories like that. It’s why I wrote that book.” My hope is that someday I’ll write something like that, something to help others write, or inspire others to write.