“Writing and rewriting are a constant search for what it is one is saying.” John Updike
In looking at the written work of others and providing feedback, I have a tendency to zero in on two things: consistency of story and the experience I have within the story. In other words, for me a story needs to hang together and I want to be fully immersed in it as though I’m an invisible witness seeing and feeling every nuance of the story and the characters within it.
My own critique group met this week. Along with the submissions of two other members of my group, a chapter of my new project was up for review. Almost all the feedback provided to me could be summarized into one sentence: unpack this exposition and/or back-story into a scene we can experience.
And they were absolutely right. It’s not so easy for a writer to see these things in first or second or even third draft. In these early drafts, you’re telling yourself the story as you pick your way through it. You don’t know the world you’re creating yet or any of the details of your characters’ motivations. Those drafts are discovery drafts, the place where you’re trying to make sense of what is happening.
During these drafts, as with all pieces of my writing, I am constantly asking myself what is it I’m trying to say. And the answer comes the more I write, the more I walk away, the more I rethink, the more I step back into the story, the more I rewrite. It’s a process that I absolutely hate, but it’s something I know I have to do.
Having my own work critiqued this week was a good reminder to me of this and of something I learned a long time ago, and at times forget: we see in the work of others the challenges we ourselves face in our own early drafts.
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