Wednesday, July 30, 2014


Several years ago, when I was doing the facilitator training for Write Around Portland, our trainer talked about the revision process for the workshops we would be leading. Then she wrote on the board - which was probably an easel sized sticky note on the wall - Re-Vision.

That changed my perspective of rewrites, of editing my work. Even though I was there to learn the Write Around Portland facilitator way (which is awesome - as a facilitator and as a participant). But it gave me a new insight into working on my own writing.

Last week I was thinking about how I wanted to change the novel. There are many changes, but some of them are structural. One of them was that I needed to strengthen the beginning. I will admit right here that beginnings (at least in my early drafts) are not grab-you-by-the-heart-and-hold-on. I don't mind reading a book which leads me gently into it; I don't need to be hit on the head or have a murder in the first scene; I can wait if the writing is good and the trail of word crumbs looks like it's leading somewhere I want to go.

But I've also read a couple of books with really strong openings recently and I thought, That! That is what I want my books to do at the beginning. Not all of them, maybe; but this novel I'm working on right now, it needs a solid opening.

So I played around with finding what would be about the first 25 pages for the writing retreat I will be attending in October. I even printed it out because my schedule has a few breaks built into it where a paper editing process will work and on the computer won't.

One day I was driving to work, thinking about writing and something else, and that word came to me: Re-Vision. And in the next minute I knew what I was going to do for my new opening. And I did it.

The novel now has a new beginning. It is a section from a later chapter in the book, which has some excitement and a bit of a hook. And it is pivotal to the story - but that doesn't come out until later. It can't come out until later or else I'd have the whole thing wrapped up in a short, boring ten pages or so. Maybe more.

That new beginning chapter? It's written. And revised. I need to do one more look over for myself and will probably make some changes; but I should have that opening chapter in its Re-Visioned state done by the end of this week.

Once again I have discovered that editing can be fun.

Saturday, July 26, 2014

Making Space

I've returned to editing the novel. And it feels to right. And good. Which is really good because I don't often say that it feels good to be editing.

I freely admit that I am not generally a big fan of editing. It is one of the necessary tasks of writing, I know. But it doesn't mean I have to like it. I usually don't; or I at least don't find it an enjoyable part of writing.

After setting aside the memoir, I thought about which task to focus on. I have a short story collection in the works, one novel which was actively in revision, and another one I want to return to. And then there are some short pieces from the memoir I am still developing.

I signed up for a week-long writing retreat in October and will be submitting 20-25 pages of something to the facilitator for reading and feedback. I considered both the first novel and the short story collection. I had a good conversation with my Tuesday writing partner, Rooze, who had some good advice. I listened to what she said - she has many words of wisdom and she has both a BFA and an MFA in writing, so listening to her makes me wise, too. And i thought about what she said along with my gut feeling and opted for the novel.

Originally I thought I would go with the short stories. Three of them feel solid and two of them are done, in my opinion; two others are still being written and there are another three so far which may or may not fit. But they are my more recent writing and feel ready or near ready for another's eyes and feedback. And more representative of my current writing style.

But the facilitator writes novels. That was Rooze's advice - to think about what the facilitator is writing and pick what matches her strengths and her style. That felt so true and right. And I am in the revision and rewriting process of the novel, so I decided to go with that.

As soon as I made the decision to get 20-25 pages presentable for a new set of eyes, I had an insight about the book. I was able to move forward with the rewrites - from which I am taking a break right now to write this. I realized the first thing it needs is a new beginning - and that I had the basics of that new beginning in the book, it was in the wrong place.

So today I am having more fun with rewriting the beginning of the novel. I have moved a section to the front ad the rest of that chapter which be moved later in the book. It is actually an important scene, but that doesn't come out until the end. Where I had it, it's importance and impact were completely lost. But that was where it came out in the original by the seat of my pants writing. When I first wrote the scene, even I didn't know of its importance.

And this is fun. Yes, thankfully, finally, I am having fun with editing.

I know it won't always be this way. That sometimes editing is painful and boring and long. I know I will get to that point with this book later on, when I get the next draft done and I have to go back and do this again. Or there are a few chapters I already know will feel like slogging. But today, I'm enjoying the process of editing. And this is good.

Friday, July 18, 2014

Big Project Update - It's a Doozy

I sat down to write this post, then wondered when I had made the announcement that I was going public with my editing process on the memoir. So I saved the draft and opened a new tab in my browser to check previous posts.

It was June 17th.

Now it is July 17th.

After the Universe gave me a few unexpected gifts last week, I did some serious thinking about writing, including The Memoir.

Before I go on, I must tell you that the Universe had to slip the information in sideways, in the guise of work, because I wouldn't have seen it otherwise. Maybe I would have. Maybe she would have found something else to get my attention or some other avenue. But I doubt it. She made the work situation so appealing that of course I jumped at the opportunity with barely a thought to not do it. No regrets.

There were so many insights from the work that I won't even try to tell you all about them. That isn't the point of this particular piece of writing, anyway.

Within a week of that experience, I met with my sporadic Friday night writing group, a Portland writer I met at a workshop in Port Townsend with whom I am going to start regular writing meetings (which will probably become a writing group and more), and I met with my Tuesday writing partner. The writing energy was strong.

The point of this writing is: I have decided to shelve The Memoir for two years. Not all of the stories. There are pieces I have sent out into the world, a couple have been published; there are a couple of stories I want to develop more or rewrite. I will continue to work on some of the stories and revise or edit them to be standalone pieces (if they aren't already).

I realized that The Memoir project had become a block to moving forward with other writing. I did complete another read through the manuscript and came away with more questions, with more problems, with the knowledge that there are some challenges and problems which make it not work in major ways. I have been devoting most of my writing time to The Memoir and it has significant flaws. And I don't want to work on it right now.

I decided to set it aside for a specific period of time so that I don't waste energy and time wondering if I should look at it. If I should work through specific passages and dig out the industrial sized shovel to fill in some of the Godzilla sized potholes and looming question marks.

I have had some insights into the memoir work in the past eighteen months and they were good. New perspectives and new energy. And daunting. And they lead to another path. It is not the path I am on and I have been struggling to keep my footing but feeling like I had to hold on and keep going.

There are so many pieces of advice about creative work being hard, putting one foot in front of the other, hang in there and keep going and you will make it, and that when it gets hard it just means to try harder and you will get through it.

I did all of that. I am actually very good at hanging in there and wading through the muck, head down, move forward, just do it. But not for this anymore. I need a break.

I don't know what will happen in two years. I don't know if I will see where it needs to go and rewrite it. Or junk it. Or extend the "on hold" status. But I do know that I don't have to think about it for two years.

So right now, while I have another three hours alone at this place, with the ocean crashing against the rocks across the street and the wind blowing the shades on the window and the birds arguing over who gets the worm or seed or whatever it is they are conversing about, I am going to unplug and move outside. There is a lovely set of chairs and a table under the pine trees, on the edge of a now cold fire pit. The sun is reaching the edge of the welcoming space and - I assume - warming it just a bit.

I am moving out to that space on the edge of the sun. I will take the laptop, battery fully charged and Ethernet cable disconnected. The owner of the space offered to hook me up to his ultra secure wireless router before he headed off to errands for his work, but I said no, I don't need the Internet to write. So I'm moving outside and away from the temptation of the 'net into the open air - even my mobile has no service since we're in a little cellular black hole here - and I'm going to work on the novel. I've already done a little work on my short story collection and it is coming along well. But I am going to return to the novel I love and begin again. Not completely from scratch, but I am using the notes and research from the first draft to rewrite the story. The first draft was rough and unplanned - a NaNoWriMo winner written without an outline or storyline or anything at the stroke of midnight:01 on a November 1st, and it's a mess, as a pantser NaNoNovel will be.

Big Project Update? Shelved for two years.

Now I get to go write fiction without self-imposed guilt.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Dorothy Allison Writes About Place

Over at The Open Bar on the Tin House website, Dorothy Allison writes about "Place."

She begins with :
What do you notice when you first enter a story? Who is talking? Who are they talking to? Where are they standing? What’s going on in the background? Is there a background?

If you have not had the opportunity to be in a workshop or class with Dorothy Allison or are not otherwise familiar with her words on writing, this is a brief introduction to her work. If you know her writing and her work on writing, then you already know it's worth the click.

Click to read "Place" by Dorothy Allison.


Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Relationship with Rejections

I received a rejection for a hard to place piece of writing today - and the rejection makes me happy. Reason one that I'm happy - it means I am getting my writing out there. Reason two that I'm happy - well, I will let you read the rejection :

"Unfortunately this particular piece was not a right fit for Mason's Road, but we were very impressed by your writing. We hope that you will feel encouraged by this short note and send us something else.

We look forward to reading more."

I like this particular short story. I have workshopped it with several writing groups and individual writers and friends. I've edited and revised. I believe it's a strong piece of writing and I've received good feedback, and people like it - not everyone, but those who understand it, like it. I think it's hard to find the right fit for this particular story, but I am not giving up on finding a home for it out there in the world. I will keep looking for the right publication and go back to this one to see what I have which might be a better fit.

Rejections are a part of being a writer = getting a rejection means I am writing and submitting my stories. Thank you to Mason's Road for the note.

Monday, July 7, 2014

Be Careful Who You Quote

When I get stuck on editing the M-book, I turn to other books. Or to quotes. Or to internet surfing in search of helpful hints about editing. Or maybe I really am looking for that magical moment of ah-ha embedded in someone else's words which will make everything fall into place and I will have The Answer.


Or maybe I'm procrastinating. Like now.

But I was in a place where I wasn't able to work on the book, other than in 5-10 minutes stretches of time periodically and that was not helping. So I started another online search for a gem to share and to inspire me, somehow.

I found a quote I liked. The author whose page I landed on I had never heard of, but she had some good examples for editing and a short list. It was a familiar list, with one exception. Perhaps the one thing which was not familiar was just worded in a way I didn't recognize. But she opened with a quote I liked and which put a different face on editing. I made a few notes and emailed them to myself for this post. Then I clicked over to that author's webpage and gulped. From the look of her site, this person is not at all like me, at least not her author self as presented on the page. Her writing style is completely different, her approach to writing, her persona appears to be in opposition to a lot of what I believe in.

I decided to drop the reference to her essay or speech. It wasn't clear from her site which it was. Perhaps it was both at different points in time. There were also a couple of her examples and points I disagreed with, or questioned. Like I said, only one thing was new to me and when I read her examples, I realized it was new wording not a new concept which would crack open the editing process.

There was still the opening quote I liked. I decided I should look up the author of the quote and get more information about him before I posted the quote. Especially since I was a little surprised by the other author.

The author's name seemed familiar though I couldn't place him. I entered my search and then I saw why it was familiar. That quote is also now gone from this post. He is not someone I want to be connected to on this page. There was controversy and deception and when I realized who he was, the quote took on another meaning.

So the lesson learned today was to be careful who I quote. To do a little looking around before I post something whose author is not immediately familiar to me. We have free speech and these other two have rights to express their opinions and the "right to folly" or whatever it was. And I need to make sure who I'm holding up as an example or an inspiration.

So, instead of a clever quote, it's a warning. Oh, which also relates to editing: check your (re)sources.

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

Poetry Quote

"Poetry isn't a profession, it's a way of life. It's an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that."

-  Mary Oliver