About half way through grad school I made several changes to my life. These were not easy changes; they were a series of drastic alterations to any sort of life plan.
I broke up with my boyfriend of four years.
I quit a job I really enjoyed to take a job I thought would help my writing career. This was startup which required a lot of work, learning, and dedication.
I switched from the easy track, the study and write essays in English Lit track, to the open your soul and write creatively track.
I committed to writing 140 pages of fiction, when I had barely written that much fiction in my entire life.
One day I was driving to the new writing job and I felt fear stab me for a moment. How could I write a thesis? How could I write 140 pages? Writing fiction was what I had always wanted to do yet never commit to doing. I tried here or there, but nothing serious. I knew it was a calling. It was going to require hard work and lot of learning. It was going to require opening up and putting myself out there.
I let this fear sit for a minute, and then thought: I’ll figure it out. And I did along the way. But I didn’t figure it out all on my own. I took two creative writing classes at the college level and then had a wonderful professor to work with on my thesis.
So, along with editing my own life, I learned from my classes and my professor a combination of three editing tips to focus on. So far this has been the best editing advice I’ve received.
theme + emotion + scene
1. Theme. There should be a theme in every story. While you are writing you may not know exactly what the theme is. I once wrote a simple love story, but was told by the audience that it had a slightly different theme. Sometimes I need to write it out, read it later, and then make edits once I know what the story really is about.
2. Emotion. What emotion is evoked in the story? This is so vital. Don’t you want to move, shake, inspire someone? Fine tune the central emotion and evoke it in your reader. Create a story they’ll never forget.
3. Scene. This is important. Defining the scenes of the story can help you better understand the flow. Go back and highlight scenes and cut out what is fluff in between. Your readers will thank you later.
Writing and editing are two different beasts in their own. One is about creating, not always knowing or plotting out each point. The other requires your full attention to each detail. Each word, each character, each scene should move the story along.
What's your best editing advice?
Photo via Flickr.
There’s a quote by Jack Kerouac that I’ve often adored:
“The only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
It’s from his novel On The Road. The story takes you through moments of beautiful poetry hidden in somewhat dark and empty streets that layer his American story.
The past month has been tumultuous. I love that word, tumultuous, because it reminds me of waves, of a rhythm of life thrown off into a wild sea. This quote, too, reminds me of that. It reminds me of a feeling of losing control of life: a love, a situation, an emotion, a time in which our control is ephemeral and strength is limited. A time we wish to expload and explore across the stars.
Passion can be a wonderful desire, a powerful motivation, and also a form of suffocation.
From great pain comes great art, but there's still a wall to get through. It takes time, but the emotional depth and understanding a writer has learned will always add to any great story.
I think when we suffer, we're often angry, ashamed, and hurt with ourselves. At least, I tend to internalize rather then blame. I begin to feel like I took a step backward from moving forward, yet life doesn't really travel in a straight line. Time doesn't really work that way. It feels like it but you carry the past, you live for today, and you dream of a future all in one heart and soul.
And so I've stumbled on this quote in my reading today that I think speaks well of growing:
"We do not grow absolutely, chronilogically. We grow sometimes in one dimension, and not in another, unevenly. We grow partially. We are relative. We are mature in one realm, childish in another. The past, present, and future mingle and pull us backward, forward, or fix us in the present. We are made up of layers, cells, constellations." - Anais Nin
Let your constellations shine, and let your layers no matter how painful, fuse and grow.
“At 25 I wanted to have my first book finished. I feel unaccomplished,” I said to Marc. He was quiet. I thought he wasn’t listening.
“Did you hear what I just said?”
“Yes, but I don’t know why you’d place an arbitrary number on it.”
This is why I love him. There’s no pressure. The number is arbitrary. The art is what’s important. In our relationship there is love and support. I am really grateful for him.
At 25 I’m not really sure I know just yet what I’m great at. I want to write every day. I want to inspire others. I want to continue to tell beautiful stories.
I’m still learning the following.