Sitting on Revision

When I taught reading to middle school students who groaned loudly every time I asked them to read anything, I gave them this mantra: “I do not like to read, but I have to read.” I gave reasons why they should read. Those who allowed the sprinkled dust of tacit persuasion to touch their intellect bought into it.

Today, I find myself at crossroads and have to adopt my mantra in order to get over a huge chasm the size of the Grand Canyon. I do not like to revise my work, but I have to revise it for several reasons.

When a writer submits a purported best-write, and the publisher comes back with the proverbial red ink suggestions for a rewrite, it takes a lot to pump up the shoulders, keep eyes on the prize, and buckle down to those suggestions. I repeat: It takes a lot!

That is where I am. I have stated numerous times that I do not have the old fanged and famous diagnosis of writer’s block as hashed out by Edmund Bergler, Purdue Online Writing Lab, Irene Clark, and many others.

Since I have a continuous influx of ideas, I refuse to subscribe to this school of thought. I write because ideas bombard my brain constantly. I choose not to write not due to any writer’s block.

What I have is the Kilimanjaro-reluctance to do what I must do. Some will classify it as procrastination; others will call it writer’s block. I just refused to revise my work. Simple, case closed. Or is it?

I have been sitting on my publisher’s recommendations for months now. I wanted to arrive at a place where I actually would allow myself to take that novel apart, perform the necessary surgery, and reattach the limbs (if possible). It is a tall order, this submission to dismantling a well-built house with a wrecking ball.

I admit, ego blocked my progress. That confounded chip is the undoing and the downfall of a writer who refuses to detach herself from that most magnificent creation and be humble. Today was such a thing for me. I went to bed at 1:50 this morning because transformation gripped me. I devoured books by people who know the business. They tolImaged me to get over my elitist self.

They informed me that I was misinformed. Because I taught English, writing, and literature for decades, and because some colleagues called me “word wizard,” I figured I was that. They said I needed to get real, take off that title, fling it into the bottom of the Pacific, and find a tattered cloak of humility to put on for the world to see that I have written diddly, nada, nothing.

Heather Sellers and The Portable MFA in Creative Writing were kinder in their phraseology, but Les Edgerton let me have it without mincing words. When I say, “me,” I am sure he has no idea who I am, but the “me” refers to any reader who picks up Hooked. Yes, the man knows how to title his book. I was hooked from Page 1 until I put the book down around 1 A.M. and picked up Page after Page by Sellers.

With my tail tucked between my legs, I am humbled and owe my publisher an apology for wasting valuable time on what I should have finished months ago. Then again, I am glad I waited for the tough love that came.

It arrived early this morning with waves of inspiration and resolution crashing down on me to get my lazy behind on the chair, what Sellers calls “Butt-in-the-chair” determination. Needless to say, I needed a figurative kick in the shin (which hurts more than a kick on the derrière).

As any writer worth her salt knows, a writer must be a reader first and must read and read. I feel better now that I have heard other voices to imbue me to do what I must do.

“Go crazy! Punch a higher floor!” sang Prince. I am not letting the elevator bring me down, not until I finish this most important necessity. I hear Prince’s instrumental as I jump into revision. “Oh, no, let’s go! …Let’s go nuts!” (With revision, that is.)

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Is It a Woman’s Work of Words?

Everyone around me knows how much I love Michael, Prince, and Maxwell in that order, but it is Maxwell’s lyrics that are most appropriate for this blog entry. The question now is whether the writing world is a woman’s work.

“Pray God you can cope
I’ll stand outside
This woman’s work
This woman’s worth
Ooh, it’s hard on the man
Now his part is over
Now starts the craft… of the father…”

Several parts of the lyrics lend themselves to today’s Georgia Writer’s Association’s Red Clay Writers’ Conference. The theme was “Crafting,” which included “Below the Surface: The Craft of Fiction,” “Crafting the Poem and The Book Poetry and the Chapbook,” and the sale of different crafts.

There were more female presenters than male presenters during the conference, a coincidence or a planned action? Thus I proffer the questions, “Are there more female writers than male writers?” and “Do women epitomize literary prowess more than men?”

My instinctive response is that it depends on the genre not the gender. Then again, I might find myself eating my own words later. However, evidence shows more female writers of Young Adult and romance forms than their male counterpart.

For realistic fiction, I would say that it is still a male-dominated arena going back to hundreds of years ago when only men reigned supreme in the writing plateau. The science fiction genre is no different: more men seem to get their names out there.

What about the craft itself? Do men write better stories than woman? Here the opinions polarize themselves. Of course, we are dealing with opinions here. A visit to http://www.writingforums.org/ on the threading of this topic shows it unresolved. However, the current trend is that more publishers receive more manuscripts from new female writers than male writers.

Is this a numbers game where we count recently published men versus recently published women? Should we focus on submissions? What percentage of women who submit their works recently reach publication as opposed to the number of men whose manuscripts are accepted and published recently? Should we take genre into consideration when we respond to the questions?

Elizabeth A. Flynn in “Composing as a Woman” in College Composition and Communication 39 (December 1988), observed that women write more about caring and connection in their narratives, and men write more about adventure and separation. Several commentators on the Writing Forums site echo Flynn’s observation over two decades later.

Following that thought and providing an explanation to the reason, Katherine Haake, “Claiming Our Own Authority,” AWP Chronicle 2 of October/November 1989, pages 1 – 2, states, “When women tell the stories (of their experiences), we know the world differently; we demystify the original scene that has worked so well to silence us. We can then construct a place in which we can hold a wide diversity of scenes to be compatible, to coexist, to enhance and redefine each other.”

Mary Ann Cain in Revisioning Writers’ Talk: Gender and Culture in Acts of Composing (1995), adds that as women, “We can reconstruct the world as a place that both women and men safely inhabit” as opposed to men’s reconstruction where male writers put their characters through more hardships than women writers.

Is this a tolerance issue? Can women withstand and write about hardship as men do? Since action sells, the literary world perceives men in some quarters as better writers in that they can remove their emotions completely from their writing. Most women may seem unable to do just that yet.

Consider something else: There are more female literary agents than male literary agents? What does that say then? That women agents tend to pick and publish more male writers in the general fiction, science fiction, and thriller/crime fiction genres? Is there a conspiracy theory here?

What about readership? Everyone knows women are the readers across all genres. More women read more books, fiction or nonfiction, than men. With women dominating the reading world and more new females entering the literary world in droves, what does that augur for the future?

Is this the wave of things to come, future trends with women writers pervading all genres? Is it a woman’s work of words now or will it be a paradigm shift of impending female writer dominance?

As a writer, I inhabit the locales of multiple genres but have not sat myself down to tally what gender dominates what genre. I just know that I love to traverse across several types of literature and can write well, but I refuse to throw in gratuitous sex, violence, and such for the sake of trying to sound like a man or for the sake of using gore to make a buck.

Those who dismiss or underestimate the feminine artistry, lyrical prose, and fluid poetry intrinsic in the female art form do themselves the injustice of failing to appreciate and recognize gifts as profound as the deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) that make women the exquisite gender they are.