Writing a good story is fun! The storyteller gets to visualize characters and events of her own creation. I mean, I had a rock star hanging out in my head for a time. It was a little weird, but still very cool.
Re-writing, on the other hand, is just plain hard work. All those romping good words must be picked up and examined, held to the light, and either discarded or glued back in. Think sculpting and then re-sculpting a chunk of clay. It is excruciating, but all part of the process of writing a better story.
Here are a few things I learned along the way:
1. Trust your instincts. You know what it takes to write a better story, now don’t you? When you hold your life up to the light and give it a good close look, you know what to keep, and you know what needs to be cut. Sometimes we’re afraid, or maybe just plain lazy, and we refuse to submit to the process.
I’m thinking of all the scenes that I ultimately whacked out of A Higher Voice. One scene in particular might have allowed you, the reader, a better glimpse into what I perceived to be the hard edges of Britt Jordan’s past. In the end, though, Britt’s story was better told without it.
2. Trust the process. Imagine my shock—sometime after writing what I just knew was the best novel ever written—when I picked up my perfect story and realized, well, it wasn’t so perfect. And so I set about to re-write the story, to the best of my ability, and I was pretty pleased with the result. I sent it along to a trusted friend and author who said, basically, “You’ve got some problems, here, girl.” Ouch! I learned the lessons I needed from her, and I moved on. I re-wrote the story yet again, made it even better, and I found a publisher.
Isn’t that true in life? Just when you think you can pat yourself on the back, you find out there’s still a lot to learn. It’s all part of the process of writing a better story, my friend. Learn what you need to, and move on.
3. Trust the dream. If I thought re-writing was hard work, I didn’t know squat until I got to the editing process. Good Lord! It was confusing, and intense, and pure magic. Imagine creating a work of art, and then having a master artist go back over it with a fine brush. Yet even then, it wasn’t perfect. The editing process had left dangling words, a sentence here and there that no longer worked. It had to be brushed over again. And again. Even on the day I held the long-awaited Proof copy in my hands, could touch the book’s cover and smell the print, my publisher sent along yet another round of changes: “This semi-colon needs to be a comma, and this hyphen removed, and this phrase italicized.”
Can you guess what I said? “I don’t care! Just let it go!” Because my dream had been to write a better story, not a perfect one.
Thus it is with life. Every day, we can write, and re-write, a better story. We can live, with intuition, joy, and gusto, the best life we know how to live. It may never be perfect, but who cares? Your story is all you have…write it well, my friend!