For those new here, I’ve written a manuscript. It’s about the period covered by the first two years of this blog. It took a year to write the book, alternating days that I write this blog. Another year passed while I edited it. I was sitting in a virtual drawer for a while, then I found a couple of people to do beta reading. While that process continues, this opportunity came along after I recently joined the Writers League of Texas. Membership has its privileges, and one of them is discounts on programs like this class on revision. (Many are free.) Although not cheap, I realized it’s a bargain and that I couldn’t really afford NOT to take the class. Although the goal — to write a book — was accomplished, if I ever want to get this book done and out into the world somehow, it’s going to take a lot more work. After all, as they say, writing IS revising. I’m thinking of it as an investment. Who knows? Maybe it’ll make me some money some day. (Unlikely, but possible).
Normally, the retreat is held in person in a quiet location somewhere in Texas. But it’s being held virtually on Zoom, because COVID is still a very real and dangerous thing; only half of Texans are vaccinated. Also, as you probably know (since you’re smart enough to read this blog), the Delta variant is a serious problem that may require even the vaccinated to go back to masking up most of the time indoors. One of the benefits of this is that more people can attend since food, travel and lodging aren’t required. And that is already proving to be one of the best parts of the gathering. Writing is a solitary activity and can get pretty lonely, even for introverts like me. So while being on Zoom will always be weird (and I had to borrow a camera), hearing what other writers are up to — especially other memoirists — is pretty cool.
The format is also different from usual. Instead of packing things into a week, it’s one thre-hour class over four weeks. The classes are Memoir, Fiction, and Revision. I was tempted to take the first one, but as mentioned, since I’ve already written it, I opted for Revision. The full title is “Layering: A Structured Approach to Revision” and the instructor is Chaitali Sen (her nickname is pronounced choi’-tee). She is the author of The Pathless Sky a love story in a turbulent time, which you can buy online from BookPeople (Texas’s largest independent bookstore which is here in Austin). I found her first presentation to be clearly presented, straightforward and practical. To revise means to look again. Sounds easy, but it will not be simple or easy to implement. As the course description says:
Revision can be the most rewarding part of the writing process, but it can also be the most overwhelming. During revision, your manuscript might get worse before it gets better, so how do you go through that without getting stuck in the mess and losing your way entirely?
One approach is to outline one’s book, which never occurred to me because. I’m not the sort of writer who is a planner. I’m what’s called a pantser, as in fly by the seat of your pants. We did an exercise to begin that practice. The goal is to skim and gather important points without re-reading the whole book. That’s my main homework for this week, plus a few other things. I’m expecting quite a bit of discomfort with this process. Even though it’s not a novel, things like theme, tone, story arc, characters, and dialog are all important to figure out. But I’ve been afraid to dig in to all of that because it could mean radically re-doing the book.
Another component of the retreat is a weekly hour to chat in breakout groups with others, which as mentioned is cool. It’s fun and also encouraging to hear, for example, an older woman say she’s written a steampunk novel. Or someone else mention a book that would be useful. And a fellow memoirist ask if I’d like to meet up to talk about both of our memoirs. There are all different kinds of writers of different ages, backgrounds, and approaches. Of course there are, because if you’re like A Dude who walked to his neighborhood library just today, the shelves are full of the range of human creativity. If I can ever birth this baby onto a shelf, that would be great. Maybe it’ll be self-published, or not. But I’m going to give it the old college try.
I look forward to focusing more on my book, which has already meant I missed last night’s usual blog post. Perhaps I’ll write more about the retreat as it continues. Meanwhile, I’m grateful to my beta readers (please keep going, si se puede!), the folks at the Writers League, my fellow retreatants, and you Dear Reader. Lastly, if you happen to have some deep pockets and want to help support my writing habit, send me an email via the About page.
Until next time, are you writing anything? How’s it going? What was it like doing revisions?
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