Sunday, September 28, 2014

Revision: Catching the Vision Again

By Len Lawson

I have this process I go through whenever I write a new poem or a new chapter of a novel. After I gain inspiration from a phrase, scene, or topic that catches my attention, I furiously write down each line or scene. When this gorgeous episode of creativity and imagination is over, then the euphoria sets in. I feel like I have written the greatest piece of writing known to man. That's where the trouble starts.

Immediately, I want to shotgun the piece to every publisher or journal I can think of. I have learned to resist those urges because they usually lead to rejection letters. The lesson here is that a writer is only as good as he allows his revision process to be. Once the euphoria wears off, then the real flaws and opportunities for improvement in the piece can be detected.

Here are some proofreading and revising tips that have helped my work become accepted or have brought me more satisfaction in my writing.

1. Allow the piece to "breathe." Just walk away. Put down the pen, pencil, or computer and step away from the page. Do not even look at it again until the haze of euphoria wears off. The high from the creative process can be delightful, but it is not the end of the process. It is only the beginning. Don't make any rash decisions here. Just let the work breathe for a few hours or days. Then, come back to it (easier said than done, I know).

2. Allow the creative process to continue. In the same way we can get inspired to write something we think is great, we can also be inspired after the draft has been written. Sometimes the best lines or scenes come in the revising phase. We do ourselves a disservice when we think our first draft is our best draft. We can still experience those moments of brilliance during the revision.

3. Allow another set of eyes to view the piece. There is no more sobering feeling to a writer than allowing another writer or editor to read our work. This will shift the euphoria into hysteria. However, it is good for us. We must let someone who is not emotionally attached to the work tell us what readers, publishers, and other editors will see. The best place to get an honest, objective critique is from a writers group like SCWW. I cannot express how much my writing has improved by putting my work into the hands of passionate writers.

Everything we write should go through a revision. Our favorite novels, essays, and poems went through this process. In fact, this very blog went through a revision process. As writers, we should not feel that our work is any different. We should embrace the revision. In it, we can see truths and errors we have missed. We can also catch a new or updated vision of our work. Revision allows us to catch the vision again.

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Appreciated in My Own Time

By Jodie Cain Smith

Sylvia Plath, Margaret Mitchell, J.D. Salinger, Emily Bronte, and Jodie Cain Smith? Lord, I pray not!

I know, I know. I needn’t worry that I will ever be compared to the likes of the literary greats listed above, but for once in my life, I can honestly say, “I don’t want to be among the best.” At least not among BuzzFeed’s list of the greatest literary one hit wonders. Most of the authors on the list lived a tragic life with an untimely end of which I have no interest in imitating. And most weren’t appreciated at all until after that untimely end. What’s the point of that?

Sure, I would love to have the intellect or raw talent to craft the next great masterpiece, but I am far too self aware to spend too much time on that fantasy. I’m also sane, as sane as a fiction writer can be and still make up stories. I do not wish to live as a hermit, alone with my thoughts, until my solitary confinement whittles away my fragile mind allowing for genius to bloom on the page. It sure seems like losing your mind is a prerequisite to creating a read-in-every-high-school-across-America classic. And I like being able to function in society.

If I were being honest, I would gladly walk away from a heaping pile of literary brilliance for one helping of “loved in my own time.” Yes, I said it. I want to be read now. I want countless novels with my name on them enjoyed poolside and on commuter trains. I want to be read in airport lounges and debated at suburban book clubs over cheap chardonnay. I want to answer inane questions from Today Show reporters, but then fade back into the crowd outside Rockefeller Center, never to be recognized on the street.

Simply put, I want to pay my rent doing what I love: creating and telling stories. When I told my first original story, back in 2003, I did not tell it in order to create higher art or for glory or to win a Pulitzer. I told the story, one of a young bride facing separation from her husband due to war, because I needed my message to be heard right then. I had to tell my corner of the world, and anyone else who would listen, my story. And I was desperate for someone to value my story-telling ability with a check. The check didn’t need to be fat. It just had to have my name on it.

You may scoff at such simple and seemingly petty dreams, but there they are, what I really want out of my writing: to tell my stories, to be paid for my abilities, and for my messages, whatever they may be, to be discussed. I want to tell all of my stories, not just one. Yes, I want to be appreciated right here, right now, long before I am dead.

Sunday, September 14, 2014


By Kimberly Johnson

I’m so annoyed that I could curse. Should I use curse words when developing dialogue when my main character and her momma fight it out? I am developing a character profile, right now. The protagonist’s name is Anjie and she has problems (baby daddy drama, trying to finish community college, paying the rent on time, and a part-time mother who doesn’t want to babysit). Anjie and her mother have a relaxed and tension-filled relationship (I’m still trying to figure that out).

The angel that sits on my shoulder says: “Good heavens, no. Using bad words shows a lack of education, you don’t have a developed vocabulary”. The horned one chimes in: “#$!?* Yeah. What’s wrong with a little spice? Plus who's gonna read that stuff if there ain’t no *&%%% going on.” BTW, I like a good swear word every now then.

To help me with this conundrum, I sought out a higher power—Writers’ Digest. I found a three question checklist that I liked:
  1. 1.      Does it work for the reader?
  2. 2.      Does it work for the character?
  3. 3.      Does it erode my integrity as a writer?

After I punched out the angel and the horned one (too many voices, too much noise), I put some meaningful thought into that checklist, especially number 2. My preliminary writings show that Anjie is still figuring out her upside-down, right-side up life. I think cussing out her momma, every now and then, reflects the strain between grown-ups; not a walking- a- tightrope- mother-daughter relationship. Hmmm. What do you think? Should I use curse words when Anjie and her mother argue?