Revision is not the end of the creative process, but a new beginning. It's a chance not just to clean up and edit, but to open up and discover. The energetic prose comes about from all the energy that went into crafting it, I suppose.
In revision, your imagination becomes deeply engaged with your material. It's when you come to know your characters and begin to perceive their motivations and values.
With each draft, the work gets better, and usually that means tighter. It means getting the precise word, not the approximate word.
I revise like crazy. I start revising before the pen hits the paper.
I write with a fountain pen. And then revise word by word and line by line so that the first draft of a scene is usually the tenth or so draft.
It's easier to write about a place sometimes when you've left it, when you can apply your imagination to your memory and let your emotions guide the writing about a place.
The landscape of childhood shapes us as it shapes the characters in our stories. You never forget the sacred places of your childhood.
Fiction begins with the senses, and the senses go to work in a place.
We all sleep with the corpses of our dead lovers.
The regional tags are often pejorative and dismissive. Don't think of place-bound stories, in other words, but of stories with a strong sense of place.
The facts, however, are unimportant in fiction. It's not the events of my life that I mine, but the emotional experiences I've had.
Place is character. And all writing is regional.
Writing a story, you understand, is not done by consensus. But we do learn from each other, and we remind ourselves how important this work we're doing is.
As a writer you can and should expect to hear conflicting responses to your story.
Reading is also a creative activity if you're doing it right. You can learn more from a story that's left the tracks than from a successful story.
What you create when you're teaching fiction writing is a kind of literary salon, not a social club or a mutual admiration society, not a debating society, not a repair shop, not a fight club or a soap box. It's a place to have a conversation about a story.
I think I've learned to be mindful. I may not have taken the time to try to understand narrative techniques, let's say, with any rigor, if I did not also have to try to explain those techniques to someone else.
Drug programs began to turn their attention and money away from prevention and into maintenance. Methadone was cheaper than social workers, I suppose.
I lost my job and started painting houses with a friend. The marriage had ended about the same time the career did.
I was always writing. I just didn't know if I was any good.
I had begun what I thought might be a career in social work. I was married and deeply involved in the anti-war movement. I thought I'd go about saving the world one person at a time. I worked with kids, teenagers mostly, in neighborhood centers, on the streets, and eventually in a drop-in center.
If you think about it, fiction is nothing more than gossip about the people you've made up.
I sat around the kitchen every Sunday afternoon listening to my mother and aunts talk about the people in the neighborhood. Gossip - I loved it. And that turns out to be the writer's job: to attend to the gossip and spread it as far as you can.
At the heart of all good fiction and at the heart of all good gossip is the same thing: trouble.
I learned to love stories by listening to them.
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