Sunday, February 24, 2013

On Rewriting

I spent the morning rewriting parts of Palaver’s Hands that my crit group,, ripped apart at our last meeting. As much as I dislike having my work torn into like that and all the homework I have to do because of it, if I address the issues they identify, the work is always much better in the end.

And that’s what a critique group is for, isn’t it? We writers are always too close to our work. We don’t see the little details like punctuation errors that make us look only semi-literate instead of brilliant.

But we also miss the bigger structural issues, the gaps in the story telling that have nothing to do with literacy. These larger errors are the ones that show us to be ignorant, grunting cave people who can’t tell our brethren (and sistern) which way to go to find the mammoths our lives depend on.

I am greatly and regularly indebted to my fellow WNCMysterians. Humbled, too.

On the topic of precision in writing, I think it was Blaise Pascal who wrote, “I am sorry I have had to write you such a long letter, but I did not have time to write you a short one.”

Another of my favorite quotes comes from Mark Twain. He said, “The difference between the almost right word and the right word is really a large matter—’tis the difference between the lightning-bug and the lightning.”

Yikes! Could you have said it more succinctly? In the face of such comments, how can any writer dare to be arrogant? Every word, sentence paragraph, and page is a life and death struggle.