“This morning I took out a comma and this afternoon I put it back again.”
~ Oscar Wilde
Here we sit, my novella and I. It’s dusty and yellowed from spending a few sedentary years on the bookshelf. It was half-buried under a growing stack of magazines and portfolio clippings I’m too lazy to digitize, the articles, newsletters, and case studies pushing the thesis and its stories further down, out of my line of sight.
A friend reminded me recently of the story I’d written for my MFA thesis, suggesting I revisit the work and see what happens.
It’s been a good 5 years since I’ve done any real writing. That “thing” that makes the stories happen is dusty and yellowed, too, it seems. But we’ll see. (Never mind that I’m here with this blog post rather than re-reading…)
While procrastinating, I made a few observations to help wrap my brain around the project ahead. Because that’s what the older me does. Makes observations first. (And will that hinder creativity?)
- About 95% of the actual words need to be rewritten. It no longer flows off my tongue.
- On the other hand, every once in a while there’s a turn of phrase so delicious that it shapes an entire chapter. (Oh, admit you like your own work sometimes. Don’t reject the manuscript before you submit it.)
- And even with those few delectable pieces of prose, there’s always just one more little tweak to make. With every reading.
- The revision process is interesting from the perspective of the writer’s relationship to the text and to the reader, and even more, how the revision process fits into that paradigm given that the writer then becomes her own reader.
- Either the perspective or the structure of the narrative will change in the next draft. In other words, I see the story differently now, as both reader and writer.
- There are at least two subplots that had not been explored at the time of thesis binding. (Or since then, of course, but it sounds better to blame the print medium for a story abandoned after it printed ‘cause the ink’s already dry.) How will this affect the overall story?
- I “hear” the narrator more clearly now, and she may have grown a few years older, too. (She’s about 17 or 18 in the current version.)
- If this thing ever does get published, how/will it affect my professional writing career? Would I care?
- This project is long overdue.
- Do I have to read the whole thing before getting started? (It’s called The Raining Tree, if you’re curious.)
There will never be a final draft of any writing, of this kind. Even if it’s something as simple as Oscar Wilde’s comma. it matters because it’s part of how we get there—to that thing we create, the conversations we start, the questions we ask, and the roads we travel.
Thanks, tt, for reminding me to clear the dust.