Thursday, May 9, 2013


The only way to the other side is through.
The good news is that “The Horses” and “Beata Beatrix” have been accepted for publication. Two stories in one week! I'll post the publication details and links to where you can read them as soon as I have them. The bad news is that I’m eating through my backlog of stories that are making the rounds in active submission. I used to have a dozen stories out there, now I’m down to four. Yikes!

I’ve got three short stories and two novelettes in my to-be-revised queue. Revisions have been going slowly as I’ve been trying to split my time between drafting new material and revising a few pages here and there. I've decided that this is not working for me.

Honestly, the first draft isn’t my favorite part of the process. Sometimes things flow and words fly from my brain, my fingers dance across the keyboard, and I charge through scene after scene. More often I feel like I’m crawling through a dark tunnel looking for the guiding light at the other end. In the beginning my characters are embryonic and barely human. They talk to each other in wooden dialogue and move through a vague, barely sketched out world. I stake out the core emotions that I want the story to elicit, but they are mere shadows. The whole thing has to grow and mature - to become what it is meant to be.

It’s through multiple revisions that the story matures and begins to breathe. Jason Sanford makes some good points about how obsessing over daily word counts can take the focus away from the important work of revision. After reading his post, I’ve decided that I’m going to give equal weight to “pages revised” as I do to “new words written” when I consider my productivity.

The Atlantic’s collection of quotes from famous authors about revision is inspiring not only for the insight each one offers, but because, taken together, it becomes obvious that every single author has a different process to produce finished work. Gaiman writes to the end of a story then puts it away before revising. Parker composes and revises in her head perfecting each sentence before moving on to the next. Dahl revises as he plows through his first draft.

As does one of my favorite writers, Michael Swanwick. He explains his process this way:

I write a page or five and then go back to the beginning and write forward until I stall out again.  Then I go back to word one and start typing again.  At some point, the first page is letter-perfect and so I start from the second.  By the time I reach the end, the story is rock solid.  And all those hundreds of pages written over and over again have been consigned to recycling.

I’ll be spending the next couple weeks getting my backlog revised, critiqued, and out the door.

Perhaps for my next story, I’ll try the Swanwick way.

No comments:

Post a Comment