December 1, 2009

Writing as a Series of Decisions and Re-visioning Your Work

I’m at the stage with this story where I’ve gotten it all a laid out. I’ve written through it.

It was a challenging story to write ~ though I wasn’t blocked at all ~ because I chose not to figure it out ahead of time. It’s so much easier when I know where I’m going. It flows much more quickly and I feel more confident. When I take Robert Olen Butler’s approach ~ put yourself within a situation and character, not knowing what’s going to happen ~ each itty bitty step is a decision.

(I hadn’t thought about writing as a series of decisions until I read it recently in the wonderful This Won’t Take But a Minute, Honey, short shorts and writing essays by Steve Almond. It’s true and one of the many reasons it’s hard.)

As I was saying, the story is laid out. Now I’m going back and expanding and embellishing and revising. (Though I do revise each day as I write by rereading, editing, and organically adding to what I’ve written.) I hadn’t set the story in any particular city, but I pictured its neighborhoods. Then I realized that Omaha fit it perfectly. Consequently, now I’m going back and adding more place and atmosphere. I discovered themes and motifs as I went along (mothers and afghans ~ the blankets ~ as it turns out), so now I’m going back and enriching and twisting and adding. Knitting it together ~ hehehehe ~ as I go.

That’s one of the amazing things about Kent Meyers’s Twisted Tree, which I’m reading. He must have revised and revised and revised, the way each chapter/story can stand on its own yet is part of the larger weave. (Boy, am I in a textile frame of mind today.)

One thing I need to think about is how to see a story fresh as I’m embellishing and revising. I’ve always done revision, of course, but I think I need to take it a step farther and re-vision ~ re-see ~ it, as they say. I think about extending themes and complicating plot and making it like real life and not tidy. I do do this. But I need to figure out a way to take it further, find ways of coming fresh to the material. After you’ve worked on something long enough, it feels fixed, and it’s hard to imagine outside of what is already there.

(I feel so academe-maniacal when I use the word “re-vision.”)

What I’m Reading Today: Unfortunately ~ or fortunately ~ family obligations have been taking precedence. But I’m still playing with Zombies!

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