Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Stubbornness Film Festival

You come stumbling toward fiction like an actor portraying a drunk in a low=budget movie.  You want to stay on screen as long as possible, hopeful of another job.  You will show “them” a thing or two about portraying a drunk, as though your doing so will add some previously unrealized dimension and panache to the portrayal of a drunk.

You wish to learn as much as possible, hopeful your own writing will be enhanced in no small measure because of your growing sense of wishing to devote more care to your work.

Your own lengthy path of discovery related to opening chapters of longform work and opening paragraphs of short stories has led you through some hardscrabble terrain at times, places where it was all but impossible for you to follow the trail, until you stumbled on a key discovery, in the manner of locating the ignition keys to your car after thinking you’d misplaced them.

The narrative for novel and short story do not have to adhere to strict chronology.

With the ability to move the furniture about to suit your strengths, weaknesses, and idiosyncrasies, you gravitated to the discovery that the tale could begin anywhere so long as it began with a scene where action outweighed description by at least an eighty-twenty ratio.  You also came to prime your canvas with the notion that the entire first scene and as much of the second as possible ought to take place in the present time, which is to say no or few compound verbs, no had wanted, had thought, or had been for you.

Much of what you read extends sympathy to these approaches, which in such depths as there are of your mind converts these approaches to conventions, which much of the time ought to be followed.

These are some of the authorial fingerprints you advocate for contemporary fiction, thus you speak as writer and editor, but this is also the manner of your suggestions to students when you are wearing that particular uniform.  You also see how increasingly your preoccupation with voice has led you to being able to articulate it, not at first in every sentence you write, but in as close to every sentence as possible later, after you’ve finished your own revisions and have become willing to bring in the editorial team.

You more or less give the project over to cooler heads and other hands, other eyes, after reaching the belief that you have taken in a good long quaff of the project, now pronouncing it fit, but in no way unmindful that the editorial process has not gone peeling rubber out of the parking lot.  In particular, you are more likely to be called to watch while a new incision is made.  This is the editorial incision. This is the fate awaiting any protracted work where audience is a part of the equation.  By the time a work reaches this editorial state, you’ve had two rounds of emotional entanglement with it, the first being the rush of curiosity and raw energy in wondering what and where and how, the second a more deliberate process involving revision, sometimes rethinking, other times drawing connecting links.

You have had extensive editorial and surgical experiences, allowing you to reach a retrospective stage where a doctor was once able to edit your bodily layout.  Thanks to the passage of time, most scar tissue associated with this surgery has vanished; you do not by outward appearance appear to have been hors de combat for six weeks, nor is there the line running more or less from your sternum down to your pubic mound visible as it once was.  Editing that has been done and agreed upon does not leave a scar line.

There is a splendid sense of give and take in the editorial process, where you have at times fought with tenacity for a comma while having seen immediately the need for the loss of an entire paragraph.

You are much more likely to enjoy the completed work if the editorial process has been as intense for you as the creation and your own revision, your acceptances and refusals as much of the part as the others.

Then time passes; the work is in a real sense gone off to lead its own life.  You take a last, fond look, thinking how far your concept of process has evolved.  The work is as exciting as anything you can imagine, each step along the way seemingly an overwhelming set of decisions to be made.  You wonder, will you make the right one.  You wonder will you listen as the process progresses.  Will you listen, and to whom?

Will you stand your ground?  This question causes you to run the equivalent of a Stubbornness Film Festival, in which you revisit consequences of your past alliances with stubbornness.  Has your stubbornness enhanced or detracted from your stature?

Will you consider a second opinion?

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