Oxidation

Usually I love the revision process: like starting with a plain block of plaster and carving in to find the shape and voice of my story. I love going over a line again and again until it sounds exactly as I want it to sound—even if it felt, for the longest time, like I was getting nowhere.

Anyway, I used to like all that.

At the moment, I’m not too hyped up about revising. I won’t even discuss the novel(s). I simply mean the two short stories that I am carrying around in the blue folder, the ones I feel like I know exactly how to fix, or I used to. For days, I just haven’t felt like looking at them.

I remember the first drafts, before anyone read a word of them, when they were still all mine. They were so pretty as first drafts, so shiny I got a little deluded into thinking they were close to perfect. But now that I’ve let them air out, settle into themselves, I see them for what they really are: NOT READY.

Yesterday I tried to work all day on “W”—the short story about two sisters. I had it in mind to rewrite the opening paragraph. It sets a tone that comes later. At the moment the opening feels bland and choppy, as if one very mechanical writer wrote pages 1 through 3, and then another more fantastical writer took over for many pages, but passed the story to some random crazy person at page 16, who had some sort of mental breakdown, until finally one last writer tried to tie it all up at the end. I’ve got to smooth it out.

Still, I couldn’t find my way into it. The story looks all rusty and warped to me now. I want to kick it. I want it to revise itself.

Before I let it out into the world (when it lived, mostly, in my head), it was really beautiful. How do I get back to the confidence I had at the beginning? How can I get it to feel new again now that I can plainly see all its warts?

I’ve already let it sit now, for two months. Maybe tomorrow I can get a hold of it, maybe then.

2 responses to “Oxidation”

  1. Oh yeah, revision is always fun :/ The story/book/whatever always seems either much worse or much better than it really is. Have you tried rewriting from scratch? I’ve found it’s easier sometimes to do that, without worrying about what was already there–even if it’s just a scene or two. Then worry about gluing it together later. (From what I can gauge on your website, this probably is not a new idea for you–you seem quite experienced. But it’s about the best suggestion I can think of in your instance.)

    Good luck with it, at any rate.

  2. Is it just so not bizarre how the writing process waxes and wanes? Sometimes you want to revise, sometimes you don’t feel like it at all…sometimes the story opens up, other times it’s closed shut.

    I am reading a book on Haruki Murakami’s work–in it, he is quoted as saying that some days he writes entire scenes and throws them away, other days he ekes out a sentence. Other days (the ones we rejoice over) he says that he writes amazing work.

    I am wishing you some amazing work!

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