Tuesday, September 07, 2010

A Different Kind of Bliss

By Martha Reed

I had the opportunity to listen to a panel of nationally published Pittsburgh authors on Saturday at a SinC sponsored event at the Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Southside Works. It’s always worthwhile to hear from published authors especially when they share their insights into the business side of the publishing business and once again confirmed the fact that writing is a business and it needs to be approached as such.

I pretty much heard this same story at the PennWriters Conference last spring and I remember it struck me at the time that no one talks about the joy of creative writing. I mean, it’s got to be fun or we wouldn’t be doing it, right? It seems to me that everyone is focused on marketing and numbers and social media tweets but I’ve been known to remind folks (gently) that the creative act should be joyful and not always solely driven by the columns on a spreadsheet. Lord knows we get enough of that at our day jobs!

Anyway, I had a surprisingly new kind of creativity revealed to me this past weekend. First off, I love three-day weekends because it’s like having two Saturdays and I can usually schedule some major chunks of writing time when everyone else is busy with their holiday activities. So there I sat, looking at the very thorough and insightful comments made by my independent line editor and thinking: ‘Oh crap. Here we go. More work.’ as I dug in to my work in progress. To my surprise I discovered a whole different type of creative writing that I’m going to call the editorial steamroller. What I found was that I could take my manuscript as it stands, look at the editorial suggestions, think about things a bit more and then rewrite my work to create a purer and even more distilled version that seemed to flow from my fingertips.

The experience of this level of creative writing is new to me. It feels much more automatic than my usual experience during the exploratory rough draft stage. Perhaps it shows that I have grown as a writer. Perhaps I have learned something after all from the numberless classes and workshops I’ve attended. Whatever this new development is, I’m delighted to find that there is still something new to be learned. It gives me hope that I may never know all there is to know about the act of creative writing and that as I continue to move forward more and greater gifts will be revealed!


Jennie Bentley said...

There's definitely a different creativity involved in editing than in the writing itself. I love the process of writing the first draft, of getting the story down on (virtual) paper and seeing where it goes. I've never been much of a re-writer, but I have friends who are the opposite way: they hate their rough drafts and love the editing process.

I think some of it comes from - yes - growth as a writer and from being able to take that necessary step from seeing the story as your story, the story you wanted to write, something personal, and to seeing it as something independent of you, a product in its own right that's gonna have to stand on its own. Once you're there, the polishing - and killing of the darlings - becomes a lot easier, because you can take yourself out of the equation and see how what you do serves the story.

My 0.02.

Gina said...

Martha -
I love second (and third and fourth, etc.) drafts! The first time through, I'm writing like I read - I keep going to find out what happens next. Once that's done, all the magic starts to come together - foreshadowing and deepening the characters and weaving all those plot threads through dialogue and action. It's a lot of fun.

Martha Reed said...

Thank you both for your comments! I wasn't sure if what I was experiencing was true but your experiences validate mine.

I have to say it's been so different and so enjoyable that I'm having a hard time sitting here at my day job. I'd rather be writing!

Annette said...

Martha, I'm currently sludging through the crappy first draft and envy you and your editing process. Plus I'm sorry I missed the panel on Saturday. I'm sure it was fabulous!

Martha Reed said...

Hi, Annette. Yes, the panel was insightful as always plus I've neglected to count it up but we have SIX nationally-published Pittsburgh crime/mystery authors among us. Mary Roberts Rinehart would be proud!

Keep sludging away...