Tag Archives: Revision

Finding the door

Junot Diaz

When I get stuck on my novel revision, it’s like sitting in a room with furniture covering every wall, including possible doorways out. There is something going on with my novel that is not right/should not be there/needs to be moved so that I can get unstuck.

Oftentimes, it’s my tyranny as a writer in a previous draft that causes a block in a subsequent revision–usually it is because I’ve forced the characters to do something that is unnatural and against their will. Or I’ve just cluttered the draft with unnecessary, incongruous details. Either way, I and my novel end up with roadblocks.

So it is with this point in my revision. There are more than a couple instances of roadblock going on in my novel. Because I’ll look at a chapter and just SIT there, wondering where to go from there. And I’ll see no openings, no windows, no doors, not even a trapdoor (okay, I haven’t yet looked for a trapdoor, and maybe I should). It feels like a dead-end, in which case I have no choice but to take the whole damn room apart, or demolish it altogether.

It’s scary to delete entire chapters. Sometimes it has to be done.

In the interim, I’m working on strengthening chapters and scenes that do work. I wrote five sentences of my novel revision the other day. This, my friends, is a miracle. Because that’s the most I’ve written in my novel in weeks. Weeks. Weeeeeeks. Some people say you get a burst of creativity when you’re in my specific physical condition–but I’ve just gotten massive creativity constipation.

It just so happens that another dam is breaking, too. I built up an emotional wall to brace myself for a personal event–and it isn’t the healthiest of things to do, and certainly not healthy for writing. It’s more honest to fall and cry and stand back up than it is for me to stand rigid and quivering. And I’m stronger when I stand after falling. And a good cry is even better for my writing.

Sorry for being so vague. Personal stuff.

And then there’s more personal stuff that is challenging me to open up, that makes me less alone on this earth, and yet makes me feel more alone than ever. It’s good stuff but again, sorry for being so vague. Personal stuff yet again.

I’ve also stepped back in as Fiction Editor over at Kartika Review. If you’re Asian American and/or write about Asian American related writing (whether theme or character), please send your fiction in.

And being as I’m in NYC for a few weeks, I’m surrounded by readings. The big reading event of Fall 2012 was the Junot Díaz reading at Barnes & Noble on Union Square. There were hundreds of people at that reading. I showed up over an hour in advance of start time, and got myself a seat (my friend had gotten there about ten minutes earlier and saved me a seat). There were hundreds of people behind me standing. There were people downstairs trying to get up to the reading. NYPD was there for crowd control. It was awesome to see literature need rock-star-crowd-control measure.

I live-tweeted the reading (Junot makes his readings less about reading and more about a dialogue with his audience, so there are good tidbits all around). Here are a few excerpts from my live-tweets:

“ppl in the back we love u. It’s one thing 2 hv a fucking seat. It’s another 2 hv 2 stand the fuck up.” –Junot Diaz (2 the capacity crowd)

“when ur rendering chars on paper, u’ve gotta be strategic. Chars hv no weight until u attach them to relationships.” — Junot Díaz

“male representation is so absurd, trivial. Despite the over abundance of men the internal lives of boys are overlooked.”-Junot Diaz

“what’s intriguing w most of us is it’s so much easier to live w the safety of work unrealized. It’s safe.” –Junot Diaz

“Truth is Tht safety of work unrealized does not in any way compare to flawed beauty of work realized.” –Junot Diaz

“first you have to suck for a long time. The only thing Tht separates a published writer is a tolerance for imperfection.” –Junot Diaz

“this is a wired generation. My MIT students ask me where my reading is. Lookitupmotherfucker dot com!”–Junot Diaz

“get to fucking work, yo.” -Junot Diaz

If ur an immigrant what the fuck haven’t u survived? –Junot Diaz

It is u & ur story, fuck everybody else. The best part is when it’s done every1 will get their say so why give them say before? -Junot Diaz

I don’t know about you, but listening to Junot always flips a light switch on in my head.

I hope you’re finding the doors in your work. I’m trying to find the doors in mine. I’m so determined to get some work done.

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Filed under Novel, Revision, Writing

On Revision

THINK

I had the opportunity to share some thoughts on novel revision over at Necessary Fiction where my good friend and excellent writer Matthew Salesses has launched a month-long series on revision as their July 2012 writer in residence.

I talk a little about my process, and my approach to revision–here’s a little bit of an excerpt to get you started:

“Starting over and rewriting is revision, at least for me. Saying I am rewriting gives me more creative freedom, less of an obligation to retain old words, much of which while beautiful, did not work inside the whole. The word revision, for some reason, made me more unwilling to recreate worlds.”

Hope my experience and perspective on rewriting/revision helps you out.

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Filed under Revision, Writing

writing slump

post-summer-cloudburst rainbow over the EV

I’m in such a writing slump. But really, it’s no different than any other summer, when as the outdoor temperature rises, I slide into writerly hibernation. It’s not that I don’t have any ideas–I have tons, much of it gained from workshop with Junot at VONA last month. I can see the end of this stage of revision. It’s an amazing feeling.

But you see, it’s not the ideas. It’s that the words don’t come. It’s maddening to see the finish line, but to feel unable to move towards that end.

I sit at my desk regularly, because faith is eventually rewarded; if you’re not at the steps waiting, you may miss the Muse when she decides to visit. The day the Muse visits is amazing–it’s like the dam breaks and all the words come flooding forth. But waiting is…well, it’s a turd.

In the interim, I’m keeping busy. I’ve lots of travel these days (I love travel!). And entertaining. And I’m reading. Feeding the ideas. And I’m scribbling down story and character development notes on my novel.

I’m also thinking about ways to get “unstuck.”

Firstly, I realized that part of why I was so stuck was that I was preoccupied with requested edits on a short story that was accepted for publication in a litmag.

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Filed under literary magazines, Novel, Publishing, Writing

my novel makes me feel like a small, very flawed sh*thead…

sudden irritation

This is what I wrote on May 4, 2010 (and neglected to publish on this blog until now), with regard to writing/revising my novel:

A mentor once told me, “Revision is when the real writing happens.” He said this in a measured tone, unblinking, as if trying to transmit some deep message to me. I hadn’t even gotten halfway through my first draft at that point.

NOW I KNOW WHAT HE MEANS.

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Filed under Novel, Revision, Writing