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Tag Archives: rewriting
As with all writing advice, mileage will vary according to the individual. The best thing as a writer that you can do is to pay attention to your own process and make it more effective. Experiment with lots of things, identify the practices that work, and incorporate them into your process. Keep experimenting, mixing things up a little, every once in a while, writing to the sound of whale songs, or dictating while hiking, or using a pen rather than the keyboard — it doesn’t matter what as long as you keep testing things in a way that lets you grow as a writer.
I wanted to talk about something that I often say in class. It’s something Connie Willis told my Clarion West class, and which I repeat, but don’t explain as thoroughly as I should, because it’s so clear in my head.
But words are imprecise things, and so I’m a-gonna do what we used to call “unpacking” back in grad school and even provide some useful examples. What did Connie say? She said, “Good fiction teaches us what it means to be human.” As good f&sf writers, I would argue that we might change “human” to “self-aware being,” but that is picking nits.
What does that mean? It means we’re all faced with this common problem: life. And we want to know what we’re supposed to do, and what we can get away with, and what to do about all that hardcoded primate behavior that keeps popping up from time to time, and stuff like that. Sometimes the message features a universal human, sometimes it is a human shaped by particular circumstances, such as race, gender, class, sexuality, disability, etc. It’s why we like to read fiction. It’s why we like gossip. We want to know what other human beings do.
And here’s why this is important: Sometimes thinking about what a story is trying to say is a good way to complete, rewrite, or sharpen it.
Here’s another example of using a Stumbleupon-discovered post to spur a rewrite.The story I just finished, whose working title is “Villa Encantada,” is one whose beginning I wrote over a year ago. I picked it up last summer and added a couple of scenes, but something about it has felt wrong and it’s been just lumpy scenes stuffed full of description of a balcony garden. I was pretty sure it didn’t begin where it was supposed to, and also pretty sure that the best thing to do would be to start it again from scratch, write it, then mine the previous efforts to see what should get folded into it. Continue reading
Talking to a friend, I compared this to going over each paragraph looking for zits, words or phrases that are little ugly clots marring the sentence. Groom the prose like a show pony, trimming dead-ends of lifeless conjunctions or combing sentences into parallel structure in order to bring them to a glossy shine. Continue reading