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    My daily writing--emails, journal entries, marginalia, more emails, blog posts, and tweets--shapes me as a writer, helping and hindering the big stuff I'm trying to accomplish. Every word counts.

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MyNoRevMo Day 26: Weaving

With only a few days of November left, I’m struggling to maintain my usual working pace. For months, I’ve been doing about 1.5 hour per day. I definitely haven’t stopped, nor have I slowed considerably, but between dealing with narrative problems and distractions from real life, I feel as if I’ve trudging through mud during most of MyNoRevMo. Better to keep going than give up, so I’ll keep going.

The problems are opportunities. My first draft includes many lengthy scenes that need to be sliced apart and woven into other scenes. I’m trying to connect past and present. Instead of dropping some clunky flashback into the text, the characters remember relevant past events as new events unfold in the present action, emphasizing the “flash” in flashbacks rather than just dredging up the past.

As a writer I have been warned away from using flashbacks of any kind because it supposedly prevents the story from moving forward. But as a reader, I see this notion ignored all the time. And as the protagonist of my own life, I do this all the time. Past experiences inform choices I make in the present. New experiences inform my interpretations of past events. I’m constantly revising and, probably, fictionalizing my memories.

In both my reality and my fiction, revising reveals a lot of information that I can cut. It’s for me to know, to help me envision an arc or remember how the character go from then to now, but no one else needs to know. The information would distract a reader.

I learned this process as an art student. In high school, my teacher suggested I tear one of my abstract watercolors into strips and weave it back together. Doing so would get rid of what didn’t need to be there and reshape what was–a new approach to what felt too obvious. It seemed easy enough. I tore the paper using a straightedge, which took more care than I anticipated, but that was the easy part. Arranging the strips took even longer. As I wove the strips, some splotches of color or white space were hidden. To see what a particular arrangement would look like, I had to finish the weaving, and if it didn’t work, I had to unweave the strips and try again.

The process took as long as it took, as quickly as time moves. That’s how my revise writing, too. I hope this means I’m a thoughtful writer taking the amount of time he requires, not a lazy fool justifying a flawed process imprinted on him in his youth. Hindsight seems so powerfully obvious, but I can only apply a small bit of what I learn the next time I try.

Most days, I don’t mind the pace. I really enjoy it. Writing feels a little like it did when I was young and only wrote for myself. What frustrates me is that it’s all happening within me. I have no proof that anything significant is happening, no product to hand to someone and say with some confidence, “Here it is.” Unlike when I was a selfish fledgling writer, I want to know that my writing is effective, but I know the worst thing I could do is hand a draft to a trusted reader before it’s ready to be read. I’ll know when it’s ready.

Until then, I’m in process, unraveling the paragraphs I spent the last few days rearranging. I toss a few sentences in the recycling bin and leave the rest to deal with tomorrow. One more day of incremental progress down. One of hundreds, and probably hundreds to go.

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