Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Writer's Diary #6- Editing Advice?

On my coffee breaks lately, I've been going to a nearby coffee joint and writing about, what else? Coffee.

It's been fun. I've kept some of the coffee poems, discarded others, but I'm writing on a more regular basis and I've always found the discipline to be the hardest part.

Related to that, I'm not sure if I'm going about this the right way. I've heard novelists say that they write first and edit later. But I'm not sure if that's the right approach for a poet. If each poem is a separate entity- should I stop and edit each one? Or should I just go onto the next one and edit them all later? I'd prefer to just go on to the next one but I'm not sure I'm disciplined to ever go back. I've a few poems I've posted on this blog that haven't been touched since.

Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

In the meantime, here's another coffee poem...

Taking a break
from my coffee
as I sip it slowly
and mourn last night's sleep

It becomes bitter
and I have to admire
the persistently dark outlook-
so we meet halfway.

What was it
about (last night
and) a perfectly empty cup?


Barbara Bruederlin said...

I really like the lines:

I have to admire
the persistently dark outlook

But I'm uncertain about the (partial) word "lessness". On one level I can appreciate the feeling of lessness, but another level, it makes me rather uneasy.

Anonymous said...

When I wrote The Dying Days, I avoided performing virtually any editing at all until I had the first draft of the manuscript written. That worked really well, because it kept my momentum going forward and my creative juices flowing; I actually managed to write that first draft in just five weeks.

But, as you suggest, going back and editing is a feat of tremendous willpower and discipline. Once you've got a work down on paper, I think there's a very natural, and very strong inclination to feel as if you're done with it now. And with poems, largely being entities unto themselves, I suspect that that's even harder -- if you put off editing something for too long, you may lose the creative connection which inspired you to write it in the first place.

I suspect that, in the end, it's a balancing act: it's up to each writer to find a personal harmony between generating new material and refining old.

John Mutford said...

I was hoping, especially in the first stanza, to mimic the act of drinking a coffee (i.e., to the lips, to the table, to the lips, to the table...) and so I tried to make each line somehow complimentary yet incongruent with the preceding line- hence "lessness" follows "sleep". And in keeping with my earlier remarks about line breaks, I thought breaking "sleeplessness" into separate parts would reflect the idea of broken sleep.

Shannon, Thanks for the advice. I think I agree that waiting too long might make me lose a connection. Though personally I do need a little pause in between. I have a tendency to write a poem and think it's wonderful for the next few days, then go back to it in a month and think it's foul. I'll try, as you say, to find my balance.

Btw, I just bought a copy of The Dying Days. Hopefully, I'll get to it soon!

Anonymous said...

Having a bit of space can certainly be good too. With The Dying Days, I plunged immediately into a second draft on my own... had a readthrough with some friends and put together the third draft based on that... and then got some people to read it independently and used their comments to fine-tune the fourth draft.

Then I completely left the manuscript alone for more than a year, while I waited to hear back from the publishers I'd submitted it to and for us to sit down and sign a contract. I didn't read it once during that entire time. And that turned out to be really helpful, because it meant that when I finally did come back to it, it was with a fresh perspective on the work.

So, yeah, it's all about balance, and figuring out what works for you. If I ever write a second novel (knock wood), I might take a completely different approach depending on how things go.

And thanks so much for buying The Dying Days, John! Obviously, I really hope you enjoy it -- but even if you don't, I look forward to hearing your thoughts on it.

John Mutford said...

Shannon, I've joined a writer's group here and when they start (in October), I'm hoping to get some feedback that should help me along as well.

Anonymous said...

Definitely! The single best thing I did was invite a friend of mine to read the chapters of my novel as I wrote it. Her comments, and the simple fact of knowing that somebody was out there, actually anticipating the next installment of the manuscript, was a huge boost to the writing process.

(And, better yet, now she's no longer my friend, but my girlfriend. :) It's her face on the cover of the novel.)

Writing can so often be an isolated activity -- weeks and months of toil in which we may very well doubt whether anybody will ever actually want to read the fruits of our labours... let alone appreciate the work if they do! Anything to break that mold, to get our writing into the hands of people who can offer intelligent criticism and meaningful encouragement, is almost certainly a step in the right direction.

Barbara Bruederlin said...

Oh yes, I see that now! It certainy does work that way - the measure of the piece does make sense.
(poetry is hard)