I’ve been thinking about how I write a poem, or begin a short story. In the simplest of terms, I just write. I don’t plan. When the mood is right, I amaze myself, and come up with something I never expected. In a first draft, I don’t analyze or censor. I let the words flow. And then, the rest of the work begins. I may re-arrange words or phrases. I look for the words that can be cut, resulting in an improved idea or image, so that every word counts. Where it’s needed, I substitute a new noun, verb or adjective to better express my meaning. I consolidate. When I’ve got the piece down to its bare bones, I may add images or ideas, as they occur to me, in the reading and re-reading of a piece. Often, as I re-read, I will become aware of symbolism and I may work to intensify it. I’ll come back to a piece again and again, until I feel it says everything in that particular piece, I want to say, or can.
Simple 5 step process: (1) Write. (2) Cut, Substitute, and Re-arrange. (3) Add (Maybe). (4) Revise again and again. (5) Rest.
Days later, months or weeks, I am compelled to go back. If a piece is done, there’s nothing left to change, and if I try, I’ll change it back again.
My difficulty has always been shaping longer fiction to its completion. I’ve written stories and poems that please me. I’ve written admirable, numerous chapters in books. But the chapters don’t stand alone. My method loses its way when it comes to writing a novel. I think it has a lot to do with the interruption of my own “fictive dream.” If I could write a novel, start to finish, without the interruption of life, family, or work, I’d get finished with the story, before my mind starts working on another, with a different set of characters in a new situation. I often suspect that’s why some writers, like Alice Munro, largely stick to short fiction. I admire the writer who can write “literary quality” novel length fiction, and still maintain a life with others. That is my aspiration: to grow my family, finish the novels I’ve started, and get them published by a major press. And, in my writing, at least, I’m a perfectionist.
Submitting my short stories, poetry, and ten-minute plays, is a way to “get my feet wet,” and seek validation. But the true test of what I’m capable of achieving will be the first novel, out of the five I’ve substantially started, to be completed and published. I haven’t abandoned these novels. The characters live and breathe within me. It’s a question of time to tell their stories.