28 May 2013
Helping Your Baby Grow--Ashleen O'Gaea
"Your work is your baby ... [so it's hard to revise/edit]." I heard that from several speakers when I was at the 25th annual Pima Writers' Workshop, here in Tucson over the Memorial Day weekend. I've heard it for as long as I've been writing. And I used to agree.
But now I make a subtle distinction. It's not my writing, not the specific words and paragraphs, not the chapter divisions, that are my baby. It's the story. So for me, it's not hard to think about cutting this paragraph or removing that character from the mix. Yes, I sigh with regret (sometimes quite melodramatically), always save the bits I cut, and promise the departing characters that I'll use them in another story, but I'm definitely down with the concept. Because those words and characters are there in service of the story I'm telling, and if there's a better way to tell it, I'm goin' for it.
That's not to say I can always see that better way. That's why I value another piece of advice I heard at this year's Workshop (and have heard and read everywhere else): get another set of eyes on your work. Be part of a writing group, have a partner, rope in a beta reader. Choose someone who will understand what you're trying to say, and be honest enough to tell you whether you're saying it or not. And then, when you have ideas for revisions, ideas you know will make your story better, use them. Because otherwise, your baby will never grow up and be a real piece of writing.
Say it oh-jee-uh!