Friday, May 27, 2011

Really? Do we have to talk about revision AGAIN? Happy Poetry Friday!--now rewrite that poem...

This week's Poetry Friday is hosted by the delicious poet
Heidi Mordhorst over at My Juicy Little Universe

So...rewriting.  Can't we just skip it?  Can't we just write something brilliant and then jump to that thick-carpeted Hollywood office where we're signing the movie contract based on our book?

I've been feeling discouraged this week, so here's a poem about my work-in-progress, another novel-in-poems which I'd hoped would be finished when I turned in the April 14th draft in my novel writing class.

Finished?  Heaven's no!  Now that I have notes on this draft, I'm messing with it again.  My book clearly needs a little more curry or cumin or molasses or heaven-knows-what.  *Sigh*  

by April Halprin Wayland

I'm walking quickly on this path
I edit words I see are chaff
I'm making characters three-dimensional
I've integrated the high school staff
(the stereotypes were unintentional)

I've cut the zoo scene and giraffe
though it was beautifully unconventional
I'm trying not to be inflexible—
and keeping it was indefensible
(though parts of it were quite exceptional)

If only I can reach that raft
and climb aboard, untie the rope—
I'll sail off with the final draft...
at least I hope!
2011 April Halprin Wayland, all rights reserved 

My novel writing teacher's shorthand for "I like this part" is a check mark at the end of the line or sentence.  It's an effective and easy way to compliment someone.  No need to put a smiley face or write, "nice"--just a simple check mark and move on.  It also allows the person who is critiquing the book to keep stay in the flow of the book while still commenting on it along the way.

When my eight fellow classmates and my instructor had read my novel, I lugged the manuscripts home and read everyone's notes. Then I tossed the notes that were complimentary, the ones with lots of check marks and comments about how fabulous the book was. 
I mean, yes, yes--thank you, glad you like it--SO DO I--that's why I WROTE it, I want to say.  Let's get to the meat, the real nitty gritty, the stuff you couldn't stand, the poems that should be cut.  Isn't that why we're here?

But I was feeling pretty low.  So I reached into the recycling box and took out a handful of the compliments--the ones I'd so blithely dismissed.  I read them slowly.  I tried to keep my getting-ready-to-be-defensive voice from yelling back at them.  I just. Let them. Like. My words.

WRITING WORKOUT: What to do with the compliments

So what's your writing workout today? Simply this: Listen to the good stuff, too.


Trisha said...

Exactly!! WHY can't we just get it perfectly 100% right on the first try?? This revision business is a pain sometimes! ;) For a while there I was really enthused by it. Now I'm a burned out husk of a former writer. LOL.

Carmela Martino said...

I tend to be very self-critical, April, so I really need positive feedback. If not for compliments, I'd probably edit out the good stuff along with the not-so-good in the revision process. :-)
I'm glad you dug those notes out. Breathe them in. Savor them. Then, when you're ready, you can go back to the revision. Although the process is tough, your next round of changes will make the story so much stronger. YOU CAN DO THIS!

Ruth said...

I love it! Best wishes on your final draft!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Glad you can relate, Trisha...oy! And thanks for being supportive cheerleaders, Carmela and Ruth.

Last draft? Probably best to think of this as a lovely place to swim around in for awhile...not focus on whether or when it's done...that feels like a happier place from which to write...

Doraine said...

Loved the poem and really enjoyed seeing a bit of your process. Thanks for sharing and be encouraged. It is progress. Best wishes on your WIP.

The Pen and Ink Blogspot said...

It's easy to toss out the compliments. We, as humans, tend to be self critical. BUT when the compliments are from someone who's writing expertise you respect. HOLD OUT YOUR HANDS AN TAKE THEM. They are a valid part of the critique. Pay attention and just say Thank you!

Unknown said...

Sending the Versatile Blogger Award your way.
Kelly Garriott Waite

April Halprin Wayland said...

Doraine, Thanks for your kind words. Pen & Ink gang, yes--I am holding out my hands, letting the water of "this is darn good writing" wash over them...

And thanks for the award, Kelly!

gteamhj said...

Very nice! Good description of your process. (I never ever recycle the compliments - never ever ever!)

Mary Lee said...

This is good LIFE advice, too, when everything seems too negative, when all the news is bad news.

Sue Ekins said...

I receive many compliments at work about my writing, and people are always asking me to review and edit their work. But I'm a writer who absorbs thoughtless and critical comments more than affirmations. I will take to heart your comment, "Listen to the good stuff, too."

Megan Frances Abrahams said...

I find it can be helpful to get good feedback as well as bad. Someone in my critique group just pointed out some hidden symbolism in a passage of my WIP I wrote a while ago. I'd forgotten about the deeper meaning -- which I might have written by instinct. Now that it's been pointed it out to me, I may expand it into a little thread.

I'm feeling discouraged about a chapter I'm in the process of revising -- what perfect timing to read your post today. Your poem is wonderful. Thank you, April.

Heidi Mordhorst said...

Hello, April--

First, I apologize for slightly mischaracterizing your post over at mjlu. I was delighted to arrive here with my full attention and enjoy your poem--my favorite lines are the ones about the beautifully unconventional giraffe. Your rhyme scheme is wonderful--also beautifully unconventional!

In the classroom, I always emphasize (because kids are so likely to start with the critique) beginning with compliments that help the writer/reader know what she did well. Perhaps for adults the check marks are enough, but I prefer a nice meaty, specific compliment any day!

April Halprin Wayland said...

Thanks for stopping by, everyone!

I do save particularly moving compliments in a file...and I've made a decision not to keep all the copies of my drafts except on my computer... so no handwritten comments from colleagues for posterity. Decluttering keeps me sane!

Heidi...I couldn't figure out where the listing of Poetry Friday was on your site...I know it's there...but where? In the comments section?

Mark J. L. VanDerwater said...

Oh, thank you for your honesty and openness, April! Your blog entry is a good place not to be lonely in one's writing life! All best to you as you read and reread and listen and don't listen and decide and don't decide and circle your way into your book just as our dog Cali circles herself into a happy dream of running in fields! A.

April Halprin Wayland said...

*sigh* oh, Amy...yes, yes...circling like your doggy...