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Thursday, March 24, 2011

Growing Season

For once, I exercised patience after receiving critiques on my stories, long and short. Usually I keep digging at whatever I haven’t finished, hoping to reach the end stage before I start something new. This time, I glanced quickly at the critiques and then set the stories aside until I received the mental prompt to take another look at the critiques and revise.

Snow fell yesterday where I live but the calendar says spring so I’m thinking about what I’m going to plant and work on this year. I learned years ago to focus on one or two garden projects each growing season and not try to change the whole garden.

I think I give new plants equal care and opportunity but I can never pruningbe certain which ones will take off as though on steroids and flourish year after year.

Revising and finishing a writing project requires the same patience and attention as newly planted fruits, vegetables, and flowers. Finally, I have to step back and let nature decide what thrives, what limps along year after year, and what dies.

Sometimes writing that seems the least promising at first develops beyond what I expected and imagined. As long as I’m patient and give orchid1it time to germinate.

In one of the workshops I took, the instructor suggested a writer should wait years before revising a long work. So much for the book a year required by publishing houses.

How long do you put aside a piece of writing before trying to wrestle it into shape? Or do you keep working on the writing without a break?


E. B. Davis said...

"Wrestle" is an apt word, Pauline, because I not only wrestle with the story, but also with myself. Waiting until the story and voice of the characters solidfies is essential. The problem, though, for me is guilt. When I wait, I feel as if I'm procrastinating and beat myself up. I know that waiting is sometimes the best policy, but being professional also means producing. I don't understand how Warren can produce so many stories flawlessly the first time he presents it. My first drafts are nightmares!

Usually, I do have a clue as to when to do my re-write. I'll have a unexpected thought about the piece that I know is the answer--about how to reorder and unravel the story to the reader, which voice works best, or what to add that will increase the reader's understanding. This evolution can take hours or months depending on the story. Six months is usually my max.

Regge Ridgway said...

Thanks for the inciteful post. It is always encouraging for writers to hear how other writers cope with our craft. For me writing is a process. I start out with an idea for a story in my head. From there it doesn't get on paper for a long time. Why? I still have a day job and a life. If I want to actually sit down and put pen to paper I need no distractions. And some uninterrupted time to myself. Two things which are rare. When I do write it is as if all those stories that were roaming inside my brain come spilling out in a rush. When I'm done, I always get a feeling of relief which is hard to put into words. Editing the words I wrote in haste sometimes takes years. And then I am never satisfied. It's as if I am still carrying the story in my head again, while editing so I can't write anything else. Like I said it is a process for me. Come see me on my blog sometime. and buy my new short Safe Haven by Reggie Ridgway on Kindle. Thanks.

Pauline Alldred said...

Hi, Elaine and Reggie. I think the demands we make on ourselves to produce comes from the way we earn our living. We don't get praise or raises for our flare and imagination, only for what we produce.

And I know what you mean, Reggie, about keeping stories in your head until you can hide away and write them down. Right now, I'm in a stage of this piece of writing is really bad with one of my stories and I'm going to try and work through it as I revise.

Pauline Alldred said...

ps I plan to stop by your blog, Regge.

Warren Bull said...

It's an interesting problem. E.B. Let me assure you that my first draft are as crappy as anybody else's. My approach to feedback is a little different. I find feedback be more helpful the closer I am to having a finished piece of work. There are exceptions to everything, but I usually hammer things out, wait for a while and then revise before I ask for feedback. Personally I do not like the revising someone else's work over and over again. I don't like asking for feedback until a piece is a almost publishable.

Pauline Alldred said...

Warren, I can understand your method of waiting until you're almost ready to publish before asking for feedback. However, there are writers who join critique groups to work on stories in all stages of creation. A writer might have a character in mind and wonder if he/she has a story worth telling. I've seen negative criticism at the start stop dead what could have been a promising story. Depends on how thick your hide is I guess.

Not only do we all have different ways of working but the same writer tries different approaches for different stories.