Writing Life 7

So, for the last week or so, since my last entry (Writing Life 6), I can honestly say I gave this whole notebook-and-pen try; I think Dillard speaks some serious writing-wisdom when she argues for slowing down the writing-act. But I just couldn't do it. I guess I'm just too used to this contraption as tool. One thing I have noticed I've been doing on my last couple of projects (the new novel and the story collection, several individual stories also), I'm going back to the beginning of the writing as often as possible and cleaning up. Going over the writing with a fine-tooth comb is where I'm slowing down. Wendy, my editor, can attest to that: with The Jumping Tree, she'd send me a marked up copy of the MS and within a week the "revision" work would be done and zapped back to her; she'd take a couple or three (back then, to me, excruciating) months; I'd get the package in the mail with her blue editor's marks, and within a week I'd be done again. And so it went for a good while, until one day she said over the phone (something like this but not word for word exactly): "René, why don't you keep the manuscript for a couple of months. In that time…" I thought this was a waste of advice and time, as my way was to get the work done while Wendy's suggestions were fresh in my head. I mean, please, I had to prep for two, sometimes three grad classes, teaching two freshman comps, working at Barnes & Noble, was (still am) married. I'd stay up well past my bed-time to get finished. But when she said she didn't want to lay eyes on my novel for a month, maybe three, plus minor advice, mostly big picture things she wanted me to look at, I had no choice but to keep the manuscript. I got the work done fast, like was my wont to do, then the MS rested within the confines of my hard drive, but in its lingering in microchiplandia, it also meandered through my consciousness, sub- or otherwise. And I got to work eventually, and that was about the last time the MS passed between writer and editor. And, so I am back to the laptop for the next book. As a matter of fact, as soon as I decided to put down the otherwise blank notebook and I opened up the document I've titled "AlzNov." And I'll tell you what: those five or so days of me carrying around the notebook and various and sundry pens served a purpose, that of incubation time. I added around 5-6 pages almost immediately. Dillard would look at those pages (much like I will later, upon revision) and say I've added maybe 4-5 pages too many. She'd suggest cutting, perhaps? I know that's what will happen anyway, but in the midst of those 4-5 pages there are 1-2 worth keeping. I'll take my sweet time culling through all those words, and take out the literary hedger, and be ready not to trim, but to cut large swatches of writing. Slow and easy. Slow and easy.

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