Wednesday, March 21, 2007


I have always thought of re-writing as a chore. I am a writer who relies heavily upon inspiration. I'm not the sort who gets a little kernel of a idea, and methodically works it over and over until I have a little gem of a story. I get an idea, an inspiration for a story, and I write for hours on end. Sometimes I can't type fast enough – I have to get it on paper before it slips through my fingers. I sometimes write an entire story in one sitting. Then I go through it and fix the errors in spelling, the repeated word, the occasional awkward sentence. When I'm done, I'm spent. And I'm done. I don’t really want to work on the story anymore. I just want to send it out into the hard, cruel word of literary journals.

But I don't. I workshop it first.

I have two workshops and they are both invaluable to me. The first is a local group of writers. We meet twice a month, and each story is read by someone other than the writer. When you hear your story read out loud, awkward sentences and problems with rhythm become obvious. After the reading, comments and suggestions are made. Everyone in the group has a different style of writing and a genre that they favor, so there is some nice diversity.

The second group is an online workshop, Zoetrope. The website is generously hosted by F.F. Coppola's Zoetrope company. Here, for every story I post for review, I have to review five other stories. This has helped my writing in so many ways. I see examples of what I should do, and examples of what I should not do. It is a learning experience to put into kind words for the author, whether or not a story works, why, and what can be done to make it a better story.

Recently I have gone back to stories work-shopped in both groups. Because the third part of work-shopping is, of course, re-writing. You know, that thing that I don't like to do. Until recently, that is. For one story in particular, I read over everyone's comments several times. It became clear that there was a consensus about a few areas that needed work. There was also the occasional comment about one thing or another that I thought of as outliers. If only one person mentions it, I chalk it up to personal preference. Or, a if change is suggested that I don't agree with, I ignore it. Suggestions can be ignored. After all, it is my story. Maybe someone else would write it differently, but they didn't write it, did they?

Anyway, I started re-writing. From the top, down, each area that needed work. I thought it was going to be a chore. I thought it would be tedious. A small part of me was afraid I would ruin the story, so I made sure I had the original saved separately and intact.

To my surprise, it wasn't a chore. It wasn't tedious. I didn't ruin the story. In fact, what is emerging is a much, much better story. One that might even have a chance of getting published. I spent the most satisfying three hours of writing that I've had in a long while. I'm not done yet, but I am looking forward to completing the re-write this week, and bringing it back to my writing group next week. After that, I will go back and look at those other stories that are languishing in my hard drive, their flawed bodies just waiting for me to doctor them up. I love re-writing.


At 6:06 PM, Blogger Therese said...

Hi Patti, just wanted to say thanks for dropping by my blog today! We get a great bunch of commenters and talk a lot about writing, so I hope you'll come by again.

The Zoetrope group you're in sounds fascinating--really useful! And I'm with you 100% about revision; that's where you really find the story.

At 1:00 PM, Blogger Miss Kris said...

Do you ever re-write your blog posts? Just curious :)


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