July 10th, 2007

woods, Elizabeth, camera, April

Thanks, y'all...

Thanks for all the congratulatory comments on the Heinlein Award.   It gives me a warm glow to know there are people who are glad for me and who think I deserve the award. 

The story is in--emailed to my agent at 1:30ish this morning, after two more revisions and another nit-combing attempt to remove any problem areas.  (One that sneaked past several revisions, showing how tired I was--I typed "side" instead of "sight" in one place and didn't even see it until the *second* time I read it aloud.)

My agent liked it, said it made him laugh out loud (rare) and is sending it on to the anthology editor for me.   So I'm really glad I didn't quit before getting the ending to "pop."    (It had a good ending but just not *enough*.  So I deconstructed the last fourth of it *again*, after 11 pm, put it back together after polishing each bit,  and then the perfect last paragraph popped out at me.)

I mention things like the hours, and the number of times I rework something, not so much as a brag (gee, would I ever brag?  Lil ol' humble me???  Ya think?)   as to let less experienced writers know that there is no set number of times to rework something....you do it until it's *right*.   It may come out right the first time (rare, but it happens)  or the second, third, fourth, or twentieth. 

Part of a writer's toolkit is learning how to tell if it's right yet.   On short works, we almost never have editorial help...but a short work is easier to hold in mind all at once--you can see the whole thing, in your mind's eye, and turn it around mentally to see all its surfaces, make sure that everything is clean and polished, that the shape makes sense, says something, has the effect you wanted it to have.  When I first started writing fiction, I had no concept of "right"...I was just storytelling, rambling along in the voice of this writer or that, trying things out.   Later on, I thought I knew when a story was "good enough", but I knew that in terms of schoolwork--spelling, punctuation, grammar, syntax.  

Not until my thirties did I begin to feel the difference between a story that was all there but not "right"  and one that was "right."  Depending on whether you think of writing as discovery or construction, one of these analogies might make more sense than the other.  Discovery:  the story exists as a perfect entity   somewhere in the sludge at the bottom of your mind.  You go dredging for stories; the net brings up a mud-covered lump with some gleams showing.   Is it a story?   You don't know yet.   You begin cleaning away the muck, the goo, the odd slimy creature from the deeps...you dig out the tarry stuff that's caught down in the crevices, decide if the stony growth on one end is part of it, or of something else....and when you've got it all clean, all the parts that don't belong to it washed away, it's "right."  Construction:  the story is something you make: you carve pieces, you assemble it, you sand it smooth and rub it down with linseed oil so it shines.   Early in the work, the pieces are rough-carved; they don't fit together well yet; it's encumbered with extra bits of wood (it may even be held in a jig that will completely disappear later)...but as you progress, it takes its real shape, and then its final finish...and then it's right.  Nothing's there that doesn't belong; everything's there that does belong; everything's in its right proportion to everything else, and you can't see any of the joints.

It's a good feeling.  

Almost as good as the praise and congratulations of friends...which is every bit as good as receiving an award.