This year my writing is progressing a little faster than in previous years. I’m writing with a pulp kind of attitude. Proof-reading, correcting grammar, but very little in the way of revision (I did switch around two clauses in a sentence because they were simply clunky, but that’s about it). My stories seem stronger for it, and I’m learning much more about getting things right as I go, rather than thinking about fixing things later in editing. My stories, I’ll admit, are raw and unwashed, but I’m writing from a creative bent rather than letting my inner critic take over. Are they perfect? Unlikely. Are they fun? Well they’re fun to write, so I hope they’re as much fun to read.
It has taken an effort of will to let spontanaity and energy rise over searching out every little thorn. I guess this is overcoming years of workshops and courses where I’ve critiqued and been critiqued.
If you want a more articulate explanation of this approach, Kristine Kathryn Rusch has an excellent article on perfection on her website. The comments following give a lot of credence to what she has to say.
With this approach to writing, how can I then presume to tutor in a course that espouses “writing is revision”? It sounds a bit two-faced. Well, part of it is that the course is an introductory paper where students are learning elements of the craft such as voice, detail, character, structure and so on. Another part is that students have the option to revise their story or to write a complete new story if they feel they can use the feedback more effectively that way. Overall it’s more about story craft than it is about endless revision.
I remember my early days of writing when I would enthusiastically write a half a story, with nowhere to go. Or have characters who went through the motions, rather than seeming to live beyond the page. I would revise and revise, change and cut, add new sections, remove characters, move commas, change “OK” to “Okay” and what-have-you.
I’m not against revision. I’m a fan of John Irving, who writes his novels from finish to start, and then works through polishing them and working on the language. His books are a delight to read and I can see all the work that has gone into them.
These days I tend to write with the ending in sight. Sometimes in the course of the story it might veer off toward a new ending, but by the time I’m veering, a new ending is well-within sight. In many ways it all suits the kind of adventure fiction I’m interested in writing anyway.
In all likelihood I’ll never truly master all the techniques – lifelong learning and all – but my writing efforts are focused on working on the next story out of what I’ve learned from the last. There is a place for subtle, nuanced literature, and I hope that I come close on some occasions, but for now I’m not heading back to polish the energy out of pieces. I’m not likely to hit perfection, but I will continue to aim for writing good stories that will engage and entertain readers.