Thursday, June 14, 2007

Truth and Revision

Posted by Lynne

He is cliches of beauty. Tall, dark and handsome. My soulmate; he understands me or least he's always willing to try. But those are not the reasons I adore my husband. It's because I can count on him to always tell the truth. In the beginning his truthfulness was applied to skirts that accentuated post-pregnancy hips. Or first attempts at complicated recipes gone wrong. Now he tells it like it is about my writing.

I would be blessed beyond measure if I only had Tom's honesty when it comes to my work, but I'm fortunate enough to have a cadre of trusted readers. Amy, Lisa and Hannah are the most generous--and forthright--writers I know. No sugar coating, no gratuitous compliments, though no critique for the sake of boosting their own egos, either. For them, it's all about making the work better, encouraging each of us to grow as a writer.

Along with Tom, Amy, Lisa and Hannah, I have another special reader, let's call her E.

Back in January, thrilled I'd been capable of polishing a first draft of my novel, I sent it off to E. I was naively hopeful. Her first words to me after reading it were, "You asked me to be honest, so I am going to be. It isn't there yet."

Yes, I'd asked for honesty. I honestly wanted you to love it, I thought. What in goodness name do I do with, it isn't there yet. Couldn't this person I trusted tell me where it was supposed to go; I would willingly take it there if only I knew. She gave minimal suggestions, some that felt true to the story, some that did not. With the support of my other trusted readers--chiefly Tom and my writers' group--I shouldered the blow, and got to the job of revising.

I submerged myself in classes, books on revision, and the chair I sit in to write. I'd often ask Tom if he was okay with me, going to that place. If you're a writer, you know the one I'm talking about. The place where you're connected to people you adore who don't exist, to places you love but can't touch. Whether I spent an hour there or twelve, Tom kept saying, "I believe you have to tell this story."

I'd love to end this post by telling you my revisions are complete and my manuscript will be published. The news I received this week was good, but not that good. The truth is I finished a third draft and sent it to my trusted reader E. Her first words to me this time were, "Revision is a wonderful thing." She said my story has come alive.

Her earlier honesty was hard to hear, though truly her words were a gift. My story wouldn't be the story it is now if she hadn't had the courage to tell me the truth. I wouldn't have pushed the story, or myself.

Like a ball of yarn, truth and revision are intertwined. Pull at the knot with honesty, free the tangle with revision, only to come upon a new knot. Anyone who's tackled it knows, it's by no means an easy thing to do--you need the truth to do it.

7 comments:

Judy Merrill Larsen said...

Lynne, how funny that so many of us are struggling with revising this week (I blogged about it and so did Therese Fowler)--kind of like college roommates who all get their periods at the same time, huh?

You nailed it when you said how closely truth and revision are intertwined--there's the rub . . . and the wonder of it. Thank goodness for those we can count on for their honesty--whether it be writers groups or husbands.

The Writers' Group said...

Judy,

You and I have a lot in common. I read on your blog that each evening you read to your husband what you've written that day. So do I! I love the immediate feedback. Good luck with your revisions.

Lynne

Therese said...

If only we could be as objective about our own work as we can about others'! Still, it is a wise and determined writer who seeks a truthful evaluation and then applies the results to improving her work.

I'm pleased for you, Lynne. :)

Grub Street said...

Ah, revision. A Grubbie recently said to us, "The entire point of the first draft is just to get to the second draft." Keep plugging! We're with you.

The Writers' Group said...

Therese,

You're killing your little darlings and I'm tangled in truth and revision--to some it sounds painful. To us it is pure joy! Thanks for always offering the right encouragement.

Hello to my friends at Grub Street--I've found much truth within the walls of your fabulous headquarters. Glad to have your support.

Lynne

Larramie said...

E told you the truth but didn't share how to find the story...because it had to come from you. So glad you found it, Lynne. And here's to your good friend, E.

The Writers' Group said...

Larramie,

You are so wise! E is wonderful--she knew only I could find what Therese calls the heart of the story. There is no better feeling than finding it.

Thanks, Lynne