To master the art of revision as it pertains to fiction writing, a writer must learn that he is a slave to the story. The story ceased to be a beast under his control, if it ever were, when he finished the first draft. Revision is the act of listening. The writer who pays careful attention to each paragraph, each sentence, each word—he is the writer who will produce truly noteworthy material. I strive to be a writer of such character. I am working to become a better listener.
Though I am but five pages into my revision of “The One About Ian,” I can tell that this piece will be among the finest I’ve written. I have learned so much in the past six months, so much I can put to use. When you add in a cooperative story, one that is longing to be told and to help me in its telling, you have a recipe for success.
Each morning I wake up and I look over what I’ve already written carefully. That’s a luxury afforded to short story writers. You have the time to go over the entirety of the material. I massage things before I try to create new things. If I only come up with one new paragraph on a given day, I don’t consider that a disappointment.
I am in the middle of reading my former faculty mentor’s book, I should mention. Michael Lowenthal’s Avoidance is a novel I had been longing to read but had avoided because I thought reading while still his pupil would be a conflict of interest. Reading it now, seeing how he employed all the advice he gave to me in his own work, is helping me to establish better habits, to be a better writer.
And the book is amazingly written and very compelling to boot.