Wednesday, April 23, 2008

revision: yours, mine, ours

I have two pieces I'm working on to get ready for publication. I'm writing other things here and there, then return to these two. One has been in process for about two years, the other for about a month.

Revision is funny and not always easy (I know, no one said it was!). I write something and I like it, with the caveat that it needs a little polishing. For example, my two-year old story was shown to one person who liked it and made suggestions. Then I showed it to a writing buddy on a "show and tell" meeting at Bipartisan Cafe, a comfortable and welcoming neighborhood place where other artistic types hang out. (I can share the location now because word is out and it's not just our little secret hideaway!) He had some feedback and felt it was pretty close to ready. Several months later, I showed it to my new writing seminar participants and the feedback was very different than what I had before. Not a problem; it is important to have different views and make decisions about what to keep and what to toss. And figure out who is my intended audience. This piece doesn't feel any closer to ready than it was six months ago, despite lots of changes. Some of those changes will be discarded and cut passages returned, I think.

But the short piece is being even more interesting. It started as an exercise in writing a short short or flash fiction piece. (Note to self: get more information on the difference between those terms; I know there is one, but I'm not sure what it is.) I'll call it a flash fiction story, because the exercise was to write it in 750 words, which is standard for flash fiction.

I wrote the story and was pretty darned pleased with myself. I edited it down to about 820 words, so more paring to do, and took that version to the writing seminar. The feedback was a little varied with some similiarities; I wrote it all down and took their written notes. Some of the ideas I discarded because they conflicted with my goals or were what I hoped someone might think. I spent many hours reshaping and taking out some parts that consistently didn't work; one section I edited out despite my partner saying it worked and I should leave it. So I whittled and rearranged and got it to exactly 750 words and took out some of the sections which had not worked for the seminar participants. Then I showed it to my partner again, who said that I should cut one section I deliberately left despite the group saying it should go. I had left that section because it had relevance to me and it was a section my partner said earlier was important. But in the revision, that other character became extraneous and seemed out of place.

As the author, I get to decide when it's ready. I use what I can from others' feedback and file away the rest. I was going to say "discard," but I know I don't really do that. Even though I might not use the information right now, it might be good for something later. At a minimum, it is information about how a few people who write differently from me and have different lives than mine, think about writing.

My writing is mine, with influences from the past and present, and little bits of your idea, and her idea, and his idea. I am listed as the author, but the input from everyone is considered and impacts the story in one way or another.