Archives for posts with tag: rewriting

IMG_1616I’m aching to have a piece accepted into my favorite peer-reviewed journal.  But I had a bit of an ego knock today when my submission was returned.

Five years ago a rejection meant stomping feet, pulled hair, flying word bombs and falling tears.  In other words – a full-on hissy-fit tantrum.

But that was then, this is now.

I’ll admit there was a pity party and pout – but it was momentary.  Because instead of washing my hands of the entire idea I re-read the editor’s email and found a glimmer of hope. And so I refused to accept defeat. Reading in between the lines I sensed the editor was rooting for me. When I re-read my submission I realized her criticism was spot-on (of course it was – she’s the editor!). Yes, the story needed fleshing out. What I’d written was good, but anecdotal. I needed evidence to support my story.

But I had to ask myself: if I swallowed my pride and crawled back to the drawing board, would the second round of effort be worth it?

I didn’t ask myself twice. The answer was a no-brainer.

I contacted the editor, told her what my plans were to improve the article and asked if I could re-submit for the summer issue.

She said “yes.”

So I’ve learned what a writer does. She doesn’t feel sorry for herself when she’s rejected. She keeps an

open mind and takes an objective look at her work and the criticism it has received. And then she makes it right.

Re-submitting the work does not guarantee acceptance. But it demonstrates (to me at least) that I’m not one for giving up on the first try. Not anymore.

281 Word/20 minutes/a bit of fiddling

When I returned home to Pennsylvania in September, I had ulterior motives.  I wanted to see my mother, of course, and I wanted to visit dear friends, which I did.  But most of all I wanted to write.

Things, however, didn’t go as planned.

I anticipated a resolute commitment to plot, form, structure and characterization by the time Labor Day weekend was over.  (Yes, I do believe in miracles.)

What actually happened is I came to the conclusion that the outline I had written just a few short weeks earlier bore no relevance to the story I wanted to tell.  Oh well.

Prior to realizing the error of my ways I was forcing dialogue, bending situations, and following a convoluted story arc that led to no satisfying conclusion.  It was like trying to shove my size six feet into size five and a half Stuart Weitzman pumps.  It just wasn’t going to work.  The pumps…er, plot…had to go.

And so, after my long weekend in Pennsylvania, the only thing I was bringing back to California was a new title for my novel:  The Growing Season.

So I stopped writing.  I wasn’t concerned at first.  I knew I needed to process everything; I knew I had to fall back into my normal routine.

A couple more weeks passed and nada.  Zip.  Zilch.  I was bringing old, reworked dreck to my critique group or waiting until the very last moment to pull together fifteen hundred sloppy words.

No – this was not a good sign. I reached the point of feeling comfortable not writing.  I felt all right about giving up.  I convinced myself I’d be happy dropping the occasional blog post to get it all out of my system.  After all, my life would be so much simpler if I didn’t write.  I could read for recreation, watch more television, shift that ten pounds I gained with the first novel.  Heck – I might even develop a social life!

So I stopped showing up.

But then it happened.  They started talking to me.  Nagging me.  No, not in a ‘it’s time for your medication’ way – but in that itchy way we feel when there’s something on the ‘to do’ list that we keep putting off.  Eventually Cora, Wanda and Rose let me know in no uncertain terms they weren’t ready for me to give up.  And when Scott’s grandmother Helen Hamm arrived I couldn’t get a word in edgewise!

During my time away from the computer Cora, Wanda and Rose took flight.  As their characters developed, they liberated me from the burden of true experience.  It’s their story I’m telling now, not mine.

And now the words are flowing again.  Isn’t that the most exquisite feeling in the world?

 

I won’t be taking When We Come Home to the San Francisco Writer’s Conference with me.  At first I felt as though I had failed.  But I realize now it’s the only right decision.  Maggie’s story simply isn’t ready.  She’s not polished, and before I hand her over to an agent or publisher who will decide my fate, I want her shining like a diamond.

It’s all right.  Although patience has never been my strongest suit, I’ll wait.  I have two non-fiction book proposals ready and waiting in the wings.  I have the beginning of a memoir I plan to enter in the SFWC Writing Contest.  So – really, it’s all right.

Here’s the problem.  The most important part of the novel – it’s beginning – is a mess.  How do I know this?  Aside from the fact that a very good editor told me so, more proof arrived in the form of Olive Kitteridge.

A friend recommended that I read the book by Elizabeth Strout.  When it was offered on loan, I sighed heavily and accepted it begrudgingly while thinking “when am I going to find time to read another book?”  It collected dust for a couple weeks and then, over the weekend I dipped in.  By page 5 – PAGE FIVE – I was hooked.

Of course, I would expect a Pulitzer Prize winning novel to have me hooked by page five.

I should expect no less from myself.  And, so, I need to do a little bit of rewriting.  I owe it to Maggie.  I want my readers to know who she is.  I want them to want to read past page five.