Tag Archives: editing

What to do with the writing parts you reject

When I first began revising my novel, I struggled a lot with the opening page. I wanted something that would keep the reader reading. What was my voice? I was still working on finding the main character. I had already written the book from beginning middle to end, but I wasn’t confident with the voice of the main character and the narrator. I had several beginnings that I felt were strong or compelling, but in the end I went with what was the original instinctual voice. What is interesting in the process of trying to find the voice or trying to create that strong beginning is that you may end up writing the beginning of another story. I’ve pasted below one of my beginnings, which in a way is an expository character sketch, that I decided to scrap as I didn’t feel that it would serve the entire book, but as a potential other story, short or long who knows. Sometimes it is hard to let go of something that you really like, but in the end for the sake of where the book wanted to go, I had to leave Karley to be saved for another day. It is beginning to look a little poemish to me.

The dream is always the same. Steel blue water, cold, silent, like a grave, and it was a grave. It had woke me, as it does, at the point when I see her; bloated and wedged between two erratic boulders, ancient, tired rocks, moved by glaciers, drowned by mountains’ rivers, and left to press, and squeeze her like rollers in an wringer washing tube. Always the same bits of her flesh peeling away like dying salmon, clouded lidless eyes, and her name whispered, faint: Karley.



Searching for new places to submit

I made a few changes to my story, not based on any editing advice, since I didn’t receive any, but I felt that I found new weaknesses in my work. I can tell this is going to be a problem with me. When I had first decided to submit Ishi, I had already been through at least fourteen or fifteen drafts, and I had felt that it was truly finished. Yet, once I went over it trying to figure out the possible reasons that my story did not make the cut, I found that I didn’t like the ending, and I also discovered I no longer liked the title. Now, in the mysterious world of submissions, unless an editor actually tells you why you were not selected, there is no way to determine what was the deciding factor. It could have been your grammar, your structure and personal editing or maybe they didn’t like it or maybe it just didn’t fit the style of the journal. Who knows, my issue is not so much with the journal or the rejection but with my own eye. How can I be so certain that my story is finished, and then three months later find problems within the story? How do I know I wont do this three months later? This is a fourteen page story, again, I think to the 300 page novel I have to edit. I can’t think about it or I possibly will stop writing altogether.

As a positive and productive distraction from my own self demands, I found other magazines, and journals to submit my latest version of (whatever the new titled story will be) my short story. I created a deadline calendar. I’ll just practice submitting, and try not to care if I am accepted or rejected (Ha-ha). I’ve added more links to this blog with upcoming deadlines and lit. journals. I read some really good stories out of the New Millennium Writings and Upstreet.

Still Editing Ishi

I finally think the first page and the first paragraph may be at the right place. I still have about a month left if I want to submit to The Glimmertrain Short Story competition. Speaking of which, if you have a short story, a fiction, about family, Glimmertrain has open submissions for their family matters fiction contest.

I haven’t had a lot of time to work on my story, I’ve managed to steal 15 mins here or there, not much but better than nothing. I had printed out a copy that I can hold in my hand and scribble over. There is just something about the page in hand where the computer can never compete. I think the computer is a great tool but sometimes you can’t see things with out having that paper in your hand that print in your face. I’ll never give up the pen and paper- but I’ll also never discount the value of the computer.

Anyway, I’m gibbering here. Still moving through the editing process. I do have a few story ideas rolling in my head at the moment but I’m trying not to trip over my own feet in the frenzy to get the ideas out.

Oh and Rhetorical Grammar? Yes, yes, I’m still trudging through it.

Uh… About the editing part…

I’ve come to that part. I think. The part where the story is finished, as the story goes. I feel a little – um – unsatisfied, dissatisfied with the very last line of the story, so in that respect I think there is still more work, but I feel I’m pretty close to the right last line. But, what I mean about “that part” is that I am at the nitty gritty. Yep, its edit time, its grammar time, and I hate it, because I suck. Suck big apples suck, like choking on the apple, you know like when snow white ate the poison apple from the witch, but later in the story you find out it was just stuck in her throat? Yeah, well that’s me, with grammar. That’s me passed out in the glass case but I aint got no prince to kiss me with some proper punctuation, and them dwarves dropped outta school in like sixth grade so I gotta figure this stuff out on my own. Annnd… I hate it.

I hate it because I can’t see the problems. I think, when I get critiqued and it is punctuation and grammar focused, I get frustrated, defensive and pissed, because I feel embarrassed. I tell myself, grammarians are not really self gratifying snobbish stuck up assholes who get off on making people feel bad about themselves for being stupid; it is just my own insecurities. Yes. Oh. Yes. That makes me feel so much better. It works like a charm every time.

I am like a petulant child being sent to clean my room. It is more agonizing a task than getting my finger nails pulled from my finger tips with tiny pliers. I hate it… and when I say that, “I hate it,” my voice is deep and exasperated rumbling low like a distant storm the kind with thunderheads, and heat spreading over a flat landscape- you know the kind of sound.

I’m reading Rhetorical Grammar by Martha Kolln and it is as dry as a friggin salt lake. My child brain is pouting and whining, “but we’ll never get through it in time we’ll be dead before we get it published! We suck, this is lame!’ My child easily morphs from one immature age to the next like an amoeba, or some cell division.

I have a response for my child though. Yesterday we, (me and all my alter egos) scanned through 442 Literary magazines ( with the help of Poets and Writers) looking for at least one or maybe two where we could send the story. It was a long process, but shortened by the fact that many lit mags don’t take submissions till January, that is their reading time. Then there was an even smaller amount that takes electronic submissions. I’m not against snail mail, but I’m poor and I can’t even afford to print my stuff out right now. Pathetic I know, but I will, I promise. Come January I will print out a bunch and send to whomever takes simultaneous submissions. Another thing I need to consider (or we if I want to stay with the schizo chat) is that I need to read these mags to make sure they would even take my kind of writing. Know your editor, know your audience. Talk about expensive. I mean I wish I could subscribe to every one, but I can’t even pay to print copies of my story. Excuses, excuses. I know, wah!

I have so far read, American Short Fiction, and I think my stuff would work there, but I also think I’m not good enough to get published by them (ouch low self confidence?) and I have read McSweeney’s; ditto on the not get published, also I feel like I’m not cool enough for those mags, like somehow they would figure out that I’m not hip. And I have read The Sun, which is great, but they like non-fiction, maybe one day. So, I decided to go local, start at home right? I picked up a copy of Glimmertrain. They have open submissions in November, giving me a little less than a month to see if I can see what I can’t see that great  know it all grammarians see. Glimmertrain has rejected me once before but I’m submitting once again.

So it is onto reading Rhetorical Grammar. My child is not thrilled, I don’t think my adult is either, but I am determined to be a great writer. Even if no one ever knows!

A completed Short Story?

I’m not sure but I think I may be finished with Ishi. At least close to finished. I feel like I managed to change it enough that people reading it may find it accessible, based on the feedback I received, but that I also managed to stay true to the original voice I had first created. I think.

Tonight I like it. I think it may be better than anything I have written so far, but I don’t really trust myself all that much since I think that often and then later think or realize that my work isn’t very good. Or good enough or right- whatever any of that means. I need to clean up the ending and do my best to correct the grammar, but seriously I’m an ignoramus when it comes to grammar. People always write, “your punctuation is too distracting to read this.” Sometimes I get defensive and I think, “Who the f’ are you?” I don’t see the problems though. Really it isn’t my fault, since I spent most of my 7th grade grammar class being humiliated by the militaristic grammar teacher, and I pretty much shut down after that.

Anyway- ew nasty memory, it is amazing that our schools had teachers that actually humiliated children, but they did.

Here is a small bit from the story: (I act like I’m advertising for a huge book or something)

Whenever I played at Wendy’s place we’d spend most of our time in a small swampy alcove, down below Wendy’s property. There, thick streams that looked like someone had drawn a thin line in the mud with a branch spread out like extended fingers between the Manzanita trees. The streams filled up during the winter then turned to muddy clumps of red clay during the summer. No matter what time of year there always seemed to be mosquitoes. I would pick at my scabs after spending the day down at Wendy’s. When I’d get home my mother would dab me with the chalky pink calamine lotion, mumbling about why us kids don’t stay away from that dirty mud pit. Her boyfriend would glare over at me telling her I looked like crotch rot. She would hush him, and dab more bits of the cool lotion on my skin the cotton swab soaked and mushy leaving impressions of its fine fibers.

Speaking of not learning to write “properly” in school. I just picked up Kurt Vonnegut’s collection of short stories, Welcome to the Monkey House. I absolutely love his preface:

I have been a writer since 1949. I am self-taught. I have no theories about writing that might help others. When I write i simply become what I seemingly must become. I am six feet two and weigh nearly two hundred pounds and I am badly coordinated, except when I swim. All that borrowed meat does the writing.

In the water I am beautiful

In the water, I am beautiful too.

Deciding not to Submit

Two writing contests have come and gone.

My goal was to submit to at least one of these two contests, Zoetrope’s AllStory or Glimmer Train. Both great lit magz, but I decided to pass. My reasoning is that my story is not ready.

I had decided I was going to work on submitting more often, and this is true, but when it comes to contests and reading fees I can not afford to send a crappy story. I am my worst critique true, but at the same time I can tell that my work is not of the caliber that it needs to be in order for me to have even a quarter of a chance of getting submitted. When I say I can not afford to be a crappy writer I mean that literally, reading fees can be as high as 25- 30 dollars sometimes 50 depending on the prize amount offered. I am not going to pay money just to have my story thrown out in the first read. Am I being too hard on myself? No. I don’t think so. It’s true my work is not strong. I’m being too hard on myself when I say my work will never be strong (which I battle with constantly). I do feel frustrated because I do not know how to become a better writer.

I’ve been working on my most recent story for about a month now and there are moments when I think, “okay yes, now this is right,” but then on another read I think, “no, this is still shit.”

The story has changed so much I worry about loosing the initial power and compassion/voice behind the original inception. As an example I have posted how the story began about a week ago and follow it with how it starts as of today:

Early draft

When I was eight most of my childhood emotions had been stored away into tiny Tupperware containers, placed in a basement within my belly and in dark shelving under my ribcage. I’d keep these feelings locked away until they started wanting to live and breath on their own, but it would be a long time before that happened. At eight, it was just quick recordings and storage. It wasn’t often that I would formulate a feeling, attach a name to it then reflect on it again. If I did it was lost somewhere in my body, but the day I stood in the kitchen, watching as my mother was preparing pork chops for dinner, and I told her that I had to come home early because Gary got in trouble, I had made a decision; one of a few decisions that I had come up with on my own, and the emotion, the feeling, didn’t get stored away, but sat in my belly like a bad meal, gurgling and pinching my gut making me nauseous.

Latest draft

I stood in the kitchen, watching my mother, as she prepared pork chops for dinner, her long blonde hair swinging against her back as she shifted her weight dancing around the kitchenette. The scent of the oil and light spices sizzled in the heat and the aroma filled my nose, but I was not hungry. I had made a decision; one of the few decisions that I had formulated all on my own.
Most of my childhood emotions had been stored away into tiny Tupperware containers, placed in a basement within my belly, and in dark shelving under my ribcage. It wasn’t often that I would produce a feeling, attach a name to it then reflect on it again. If I did it was lost somewhere in my body. I’d keep these feelings locked away until they started wanting to live and breath on their own, poking at my back in aches and pains, but it would be a long time before that happened. At age eight, it was just quick recordings and storage.
There had been an “incident” at my friend’s house the day my mother’s boyfriend was coming to dinner for pork chops and buttered mashed potatoes. That day I had watched Gary’s mother beat him because of something I did.

I think the first sentence in the latest draft is the better of the two because it starts off in action- the character is watching, she is doing something, but other than that I am not sure how it is going. I spend hours on just one paragraph sometimes. It’s amazing how much time goes into a small little piece of work and it still never seems to be right. I’m hoping some buzzer will go off in my head letting me know when it is finally ready finally right because until that happens I really don’t know when it will be ready to submit.

You ask and you shall receive

Just as I was thinking of leaving the Zoetrope community I was given three really great reviews, all with workable feedback. I have now worked on the third revision since I originally posted The Rules of the Game, three or four days ago. I am finding that I literally could write all day long. One story alone is taking me weeks to write well.

I’ve added a few elements to the story in regard to the portion about the Native American tribe that once lived in the area per advice of my roommate and I re ordered the events and changed the ending. This has been a challenging process. I find that I can whip a story out pretty fast but there is so much more development involved. I am amazed that people write novels. I am working on a novel and it is taking me forever and I haven’t even reached the part in the novel where I am in the short story process. I mean it i could do this all day.  I envy the working writer, and those that get to be paid for what they love to do.

Speaking of getting paid to do what they love. I read another great story out of American Short Fiction by Patrick Somerville. It is titled The Universe in Miniature in Miniature. I was such a great read. I have only been delighted with what I have read in American Short Fiction and if I ever found myself published in their journal it would be an honor to share the pages with these  great writers, Patrick Somerville, Christie Hodgen, Karen Gentry just to name a few.

As a last note in regard to my most recent short story, I think the title needs to be changed, I feel like it is close in my head but not quite there.