• Bridge Ladies

    Bridge Ladies When I set out to learn about my mother's bridge club, the Jewish octogenarians behind the matching outfits and accessories, I never expected to fall in love with them. This is the story of the ladies, their game, their gen, and the ragged path that led me back to my mother.
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Gold Teeth Grey Goose Tripping in the Bathroom

I‘m in the middle of a revision. Ah, revision. Fucking’ revision. It’s all about the revision. Why is it so hard to put on your boots and go back into into the fray. To find the squirrel’s soft belly? To grab the monkey or climbing rope. To rethink, reimagine, regroup. How do clear the static, the white noise, the maw of the garbage truck, the thrum of rain. What is that between your toes, how did you let yourself go? Fill in a character, a trajectory, a chronology, a slow burning fuse you forgot to explode.

How do you go back in?

10 Responses

  1. Because it’s do or die. Or maybe do AND die. Little difference.

  2. A bottle of firewater and a book of matches. I call it scorched earth. On the upside I’ve learned a lot about recovering documents after I’ve factory reset my computer in a fit of fatalistic pessemism. And flushed my thumb drive down the toilet. It’s always a learning experience.

  3. A taekwondo workout. Preferably with board breaking.

  4. Yikes. So far we’re dying, burning shit up and breaking boards. I don’t know if I can top that.

    How do I go back in? Like a surgeon. Cut, cut cut. And hope it survives.

  5. Ahh, but I love revision. Sometimes it’s easier to revise than go forward.
    Shape it, forge it, slash the trash. It’s a love affair of sorts, but you can’t love it too much…

  6. With a hey nonny nonny and a hot cha cha.
    (Courtesy of Groucho and company)

    The more I think about it, might just boil down to this.

  7. I wait–a very, very long time, until I can see it with totally new eyes, then I get to cutting out the needless, as E.B. White so astutely said.

  8. “How do you go back in?”

    It often takes time. That is, going back in is different from the constant revision and polishing that you do when you’re first crafting the piece. I think I’m stating the obvious, but I want to be clear.

    Just this week I finished two “going back in” revisions. They both benefited from feedback I received from other readers, one more immediately than the other. One was fiction and the other was poetry.

    When I say it takes time to do a “going back in” revision, I mean that there has to have been some time that has passed since you first finished a draft that you think is or may be ready for market, and the time when you go back in.

    The poetry piece first. It’s a book of poems that was a finalist in a contest, but didn’t win. It had also been rejected by other publishers. I knew it was pretty strong but I thought, it’s made it pretty far but it hasn’t been published — what can I do to make it more likely to find a publisher?

    It’s a work in three sections. I knew one section was the strongest, so I started sending that around as a chapbook. Meanwhile, the editors of the contest where the book was a finalist wrote me and said, “This is where we think your collection is strong and this is where we think it is weak.” I took a look at what they had to say and did what I have learned to do with editorial advice, and that is to try it out and see how it works. I think most of the points the editors made were good points and I think that by incorporating them, I’ve made a stronger book. It was a pretty good book already, so it didn’t take a lot of time and effort to make the changes.

    The fiction piece is a novel I wrote almost four years ago. It’s been out a number of times. Early after I finished its first finished draft, I sent it to a couple writers who’ve frequently appeared here on your blog. They both gave me good feedback, much of which was the same. That is, they saw the same weaknesses in the book.

    This is where the “going back in” got tricky. I knew they were right but I didn’t know how to make the changes. That’s where the part of going back in where you need to give it a little time before you can do it came into play. I gave it enough time and I was able to go back in and make the changes.

    But the book still wasn’t good enough. I sensed that, but I didn’t see the details. I moved on to other work — always a good move, to keep producing even though you’ve got an older piece that is not getting good market results and that you’re suspicious of. A couple months ago, I was reviewing an excerpt from the book, prepping it for submission, and I thought, “This could be tighter; in fact, I should go back to the whole novel and see how I can tighten it up.” I set to work on that, doing a little bit every day, and reached the end earlier this week. One thing I’ve learned is that when I’ve finished a book-length work, I need to set aside an entire day — sometimes a very long day — and do a complete read-through, so I can follow all the lines and arcs and comprehend the internal connections. Today was the day I did that with this book. I set everything else aside (I haven’t even showered) and started at 6:00 a.m. and finished at 5:45 p.m. The novel is stronger now. My only regret is having sent it out in earlier, weaker versions.

    Prepping for submission is a pragmatic way to go back in. I have a lot of unpublished work. Not by choice, but this is a very competitive field, this field of writerly dreams, and, sorry to say, sometimes I’m just not a very good writer. Timing is also an issue, but there’s not much you can do about that other than show up and do the work, step out on that field of dreams. When I’m doing the prepping for subs part of the work, I’ll look at a piece to make sure there’s not anything in it that could stand to be fixed that I hadn’t caught yet.

    Often when I go back in, it’s because I’m fed up with not being able to get a piece published. At that point, I can be pretty open to grabbing a piece by the throat and slapping it around. Sometimes I get good results.

  9. Nice truck pic!

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