Tuesday, June 5, 2012

On Progress

So I recently went back to a story I wrote about 6 years ago and gave it the once over, because I'd like to get better at the editing.

I'm not really sure how I feel about the exercise.

On the one hand, I'm happy to feel like I've improved in some ways. My prose especially is much tighter. The story's biggest problem is long sentences that have more than one way they could grammatically be read. I also go on quite a bit, though honestly I still do that. Cutting out repetitive examples is going to be a big thing in the revision. Another structural weakness was that the final scene was essentially a long monologue where a character pours out all her feelings in a very repetitive and predictable way.

Actually it's also got me thinking a bit about structure in general, because before the confrontation, I actually had an epiphany scene, which in many ways is sort of a better climax (especially as it echoes the first part of the story where the other character is not present- sort of a reorientation of the main character). I think I can shorten the final confrontation to make the new actions the character takes a direct result of that epiphany- so that it's essentially denouement with a lot of gross body modification.

That was another thing- I found places where I felt like I was being unnecessarily gorey. And I say that as someone who really enjoys red splatter (my published stories include dismembered cats, thousands of drowned dead being compared to cereal left too long in milk, and a scene where a character reaches into the chest of a living horse and attempts to rip out its still-beating heart). This just felt like a child screaming "pay attention to me!"

While it's unfocused, there are ideas, single images, and phrases in this story that I loved to death rereading them. The plot is pretty archetypal, but I think it's carried out in a way that still makes it fun. Some of these things I look at and think: I don't think I could have come up with anything this cool. I did manage to add a bit of horribleness I think is thematically in keeping, but basically there are some bits that are as good as anything I've written recently.

And there's the rub.

Six years. I just don't feel six years better than this story. I'm inarguably better than I was when I wrote this, but I don't feel better enough. I feel like I should have mastered more secrets, uncovered more of the secret formulas that make things work.

I get that things are going to be slow, and progress was never made overnight. I get that I have a full time job and in fact work close to 60 hours most weeks. But other authors do far more and still get good work accomplished. I feel a little like I'm spinning my wheels in sand. I want to get to a point where I look back on what I've done and feel mortified at its simplicity and childishness. And that doesn't seem to be happening.

So I guess that's really the goal. Horrified transcendence. It just feels such a long way away. 

1 comment:

  1. I would be interested to know how you've formed your benchmarks for what acceptable productivity is and what six years of progress ought to look like. Who are your work ethic idols?