I have to admit that I am a fan of the following short story by David Sedaris–“Six to Eight Black Men”–which a classmate shared with me this week. I listened to it while at work and kept having to stifle my giggles while my coworkers shot me perplexed looks.
And, if you’re looking for more writing/holiday related material, maybe you should check out this short story “Nicholas Was” by Neil Gaiman. It also made me laugh, but then…I have a dark sense of humor.
All of this! Go, read it, my few readers that I have!
I am not sure I know any writers who live for editing and revising their work. It’s not that there isn’t a huge amount of satisfaction to be gained by polishing a scene or a section of dialogue, but it is a tedious process filled with a lot of rewriting and moving things around and slashing what you once thought were brilliant moments. You might, as I am doing with my current writing project, end up taking a completely different approach and focus to the general story. This makes for a good deal of extra work, which I hope will be worthwhile in the end. (I will say this: I’m quite pleased with my thesis at the moment.)
One of the textbooks for my thesis course is Walter Mosley’s This Year You Write Your Novel. I highly recommend this book! It’s a great resource, and it’s easy to absorb. In the mini-section “when am I finished rewriting?”, Mosley says:
Never. The novel never attains the level of perfection. No matter how much you rewrite and rewrite again, you will still find places in the book that don’t do exactly what you want. You will feel that some characters are hazy, and plot connections unsure. There’s a subplot that will seem to get lost and a fairly important character that will change but not as much as you might have wished.
This is true for writers in all forms. Books are not pristine mathematical equations. They are representative of humanity and are therefore flawed.
“So when will I know to stop rewriting?” you ask.
When you see the problems but, no matter how hard you try, you can’t improve on what you have. That’s it. You find yourself reading through the book for the twenty-fifth time, and as you see problems, you try to fix them, but the attempt only makes things worse….Then you know you’re finished.
Congratulations. You have a novel. This one is good. The next one will be better.
So there you have it.
For someone like me who is an admitted perfectionist, I felt so much relief reading this passage. Writing, like life, does not need to be perfect. Isn’t that great?
The following short video includes some of Neil Gaiman’s thoughts on writing, especially on the importance of writing in order to become a writer. He also touches on reading, first drafts, and more. The audio is from a Nerdist podcast, but the video was put together by YouTuber Brandon Farley.
How do you go about writing?
I know what you’re thinking… Two blog posts within 24 hours. What could this mean?! (#doublerainbow)
I think I’ve hit a long awaited writing episode where all I want to do is write. Additionally, my thesis course has been inspiring me, and that makes me want to post here as well. I have two related items to share here. The first is about narrator, and the second is about narrative.
This last week in my class, we were looking at POV and narration, so our professor gave us a link to Steve Almond’s article “Once Upon a Time, There was a Person Who Said, ‘Once Upon a Time’ | The New York Times” (The New York Times Magazine, January 2013). I won’t do Almond the injustice of trying to summarize his article, but do go read it. I felt that it was especially poignant in light of the chaotic world events of this last week.
In turn, this article made me think of Chimamanda Ndozi Adichie’s 2009 TED Talk called “The Danger of the Single Story | TED.com.” I rewatch Adichie’s talk every other month or so and never tire of listening to her wisdom and experience. I will embed the video below in case you don’t want to click through to the link.
I hope you enjoy these two perspectives on narrator and narrative. Let me know what you think in the comments!
I’m working on my thesis right now, and since I am majorly revising a prior draft, I have been including many more details and fleshing the story out as I go. As a direct result of this slowed down process, I have been doing a lot of research. Tonight, I have searched for and learned more about the following things:
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why writers’ search histories are odd.
On a whim, I decided to undertake a reading challenge for 2015. It only makes sense to do it because sometimes I get caught up in other narratives (ah, Netflix, my sweetest downfall…I loved you first. I loved you first…) and honestly forget how much I enjoy reading. There’s something magical about the written word, and it’s quite a different experience to watching a story visually unfold.
Just as I had a really good reason to tune out the world in favor of Doctor Who (reboot) marathons, I also had a really good reason to pick up this reading challenge. Writers need to read: it’s as simple as that. Need. Not should, ought to, probably would be better off if they did, but need to read. So when I stumbled across a reading challenge, I decided, “Why not?” and committed to reading 50 books in a year. For someone who reads slowly, this is no small commitment, so I’m trying to balance my more serious reading with lighter fare.
I’m trying to plan my reading according to my “to read” list on Goodreads to see if I can hack away at it a bit–a Sisyphean task since I only keep adding new ones to the list. Ah well. Currently, I’m one book ahead of my reading schedule, although I was several books up earlier this year. Then life caught up and Doctor Who became my companion. (Heh.)
Without further ado, the list of books I’ve read so far this year:
So this is where I’m at so far in the challenge. I’ve read a decent chunk of YA lit, but I’ve also read several good nonfiction books and dabbled in the classics. I only regret a few books on this list, so that’s not so bad, eh?
Until next time!
*If you or someone you know has suffered a miscarriage or other pregnancy loss, I highly recommend this book.
I’ve been leading a creative writing club for high schoolers, which started at the beginning of October. Originally, I wanted to have us start off the year with a bang with NaNoWriMo via the Young Writers Program, but these students are all second language English learners, so that was a bit too overwhelming of a start. (Poor planning on me…)
I proposed we start with something simpler, and they all eagerly agreed. Therefore, I introduced them to Billy Collins’ “Litany.” When I was in college, one of my professors told us to mimic this poem as a means to improving our writing–mimicking can improve sentence structure and syntax–and I decided to borrow from said professor by having these students do the same. All in all, I really enjoyed what they came up with and would love to share their poems, but I am pretty sure that is not a great idea. Instead, with apologies to Billy Collins, mine follows:
You are the cherries and the pie,
the black coffee and the white mug.
You are the frost on the windowpane
and the flame of a candle.
You are the gentle crunch of snow underfoot
and the final glow of sunset.
However, you are not the bite of winter,
the icicles on the gutter,
or the frozen pond.
And you are certainly not a night storm.
There is just no way that you are a night storm.
It is possible that you are the pumpkins on the porch,
maybe even the last leaves of autumn,
but you are not even close
to being the trick-or-treaters at the door.
And a quick look in the mirror will show
that you are neither the witch’s cauldron
nor the ghouls haunting the graveyard.
It might interest you to know,
speaking of the plentiful imagery of the world,
that I am the copper kettle on the stove.
I also happen to be the afghan on the sofa,
the dough rising on the kitchen counter
and the garlands of onions in the pantry.
I am also the last morning star
and the first hint of sunrise.
But don’t worry, I’m not the cherries and the pie.
You are still the cherries and the pie.
You will always be the cherries and the pie,
not to mention the black coffee and–somehow–the white mug.