Monday, December 10, 2007

Why writing sometimes sucks.

Pretty much done with my Irvine application (and all the others except Sarah Lawrence) if I would stop second-guessing my bad essays.

The thing that caught me off guard is this:

So I have these two short stories that I am using in my portfolio, pieces I've been working on since forever. They've gone through many many many drafts, seen many many many eyes.

One of my writing teachers, who I trust greatly and credit for becoming a much better writer than I was a year ago, he made general and specific criticisms of my writing style in that I tend to be overly verbose. I like to explain outcomes and throw on internals like there's no tomorrow. After carefully listening to him, I started to edit out two lines out of every three or four that I wrote. Having done that enough times, it's starting to feel natural for me to know where to just let dialogue or action do the heavylifting and not rely on expository internal as much.

So when I went back to these two stories for a re-edit, I did just that. I cut back every thing, pared it down so things were tight, clean, instead of diving deep into their minds like I have the tendency to do. I felt good about the outcome. I lost some of the backstory that I know is in my mind, and I'm uncertain about how a new reader reads the pieces, but I thought/hoped it was tight.

I recently sent these two pieces to another writer, someone who has enjoyed a pretty reasonable amount of success and acclaim. He read the two pieces and told me the stories felt "underdone" and "too pared back". Which gives me pause. Because if anything, they were so full before, they were both once over 20 pages long, and I had to work very very hard to cut each back to less than 15 (now 13 and 14 respectively). So I wonder if maybe I've overdone it.

Well, I'm not going to revise these again for now. Moonie has read and edited both, and she says she likes them how it is. So I'll trust her and keep it as is. But of course, there's that kernel of doubt in my mind that says, will new readers of the pieces think it falls flat? Am I being subtle and using the "less is more" thing skillfully, or do they really feel underdone? Most importantly, when admissions people read this portfolio, are they going to feel like my writing teacher? Or are they going to feel like this writer? I am worried and second-guessing a little bit. But I do think I'm at the point where I am abandoning these pieces. I've worked on them for so long, and the way they are now, is final.

All I'm saying is, that's the one thing that sucks about this whole creative writing business. Everyone has an opinion. And you can respect two people an equal amount, and they can have two completely different opinions on how to make your work stronger. I just don't know, at this point, who I agree with more, moving forward.

4 drops:

cyn said...

you're so right. go by what you feel you want in your pieces. it is so subjective! my one meeting last writers conf with weis (writer), she felt my heroine was "too modern" and to make it more authentic to the world my story was in.

then my first agent meeting, she wanted a more modern and sassy heroine. argh! i'm sticking my guns about the beginning being more formal.

good luck, angelle!

moonrat said...

no one's opinion should matter except mine. i mean, yours. ;)

vivian said...

And the workshops in the MFA program you end up going to will be more of the same. You just have to decide for yourself. The best rule of thumb probably is: Write the story you'd want to read.

OrangeDrink said...

I sent 6 stories to 6 friends and asked them to rank them to help me decide which stories to send. What I ended up with was 6 stories that all had an average of 3rd place.

I don't know. I just ended up deciding which stories to submit because I was sick of worrying about it all the time.

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