I am certain the greatest frustration for everyone is the inability to revise certain happenings in their lives. And while our greatest lessons arise from our failures, wouldn’t it be nice to be able to apply those lessons immediately and revise what just occurred? While we can’t recreate our lives, we can recreate our writing.
In her March 19 post, Reinventing the Wheel, fellow blogger Lisa DiDio did just that as she wrestled with manuscript revision in the extreme—not just polishing sentences and refining the prose, but “completely divorc[ing herself] from the original version,” trashing it and beginning anew. I wanted to return to her theme because this is a blog about writing and I think she hit on what I believe is both the most important lesson and the most difficult task for any writer.
One of writing’s most important lessons, this task requires mental gymnastics even tougher than those required for killing one’s darlings, at least at the outset. After months of labor creating a work you cherish, how difficult must it be to turn around and blow it up in an instant? This is far more difficult than what I proposed in my June 15, 2011 post, Gemology, or the power of negative numbers—that of merely cutting down an unwieldy manuscript—and I suspect, far more rewarding. It marks a major milestone in a writer’s career and is not one to be taken lightly. Emerging authors would be well-served to consider what she is doing when they have a core concept they know to be valid and wish to preserve, but find their manuscript is being repeatedly rejected because, as many rejection slips say, “it just doesn’t work for us.” Perhaps, it just doesn’t work.
When I first joined the Pacific Northwest Writers Association, their website had a members forum—now discarded—where writers could discuss all aspects of their process. One member wrote of her outrage at being asked by an agent to change elements of her story. Supporting her, another member wrote, “after all, it is your story.” That caused me to wonder how valid this concept is. Is it so important to keep it just your story, or is it more important to turn it into something that becomes everyone’s story like Harry Potter or The Hunger Games? Further, if you are really the writer you think you are, can you only find one way to tell your story? Can’t you find another, even better way?
As Lisa closed her post, it sounded as if she had and I am now looking at some of my earlier work from a new perspective.