Friday, April 11, 2014

L'histoire de Pain

Yesterday I did some revisions on the bread story...did I ever name it as such in the blog? It's the story I wrote for my experimental class, which I thought turned out well and which was fairly well-received in workshop. I revised it somewhat to my professor's suggestions, and I am much less certain about it now than I was before revision.

Here's how it goes: Two people meet, fall in love, and break up, but that story is told three times in three different ways. The two people are the same, although their ages and other details differ, and essentially I put them through three versions of their doomed relationship over about 4,300 words. But that's not all! I also included text in boxes that sit physically to the side of the narrative, acting as a sort of Pop-Up Video for the story, with stuff about what I was thinking when I wrote it and also random facts about baking bread (which is a threaded metaphor for their failing, failing, failing relationship).

My professor didn't like the boxes aesthetically, and pointed out that the couple's narrative isn't really the main narrative but the stuff in the boxes is, and said by way of complimenting me that my writing is too clever by half. I disagreed with her on the aesthetic thing, but decided to try a revision with no boxes anyway. Instead, I made the text go sideways and at one point wrap all the way around the main narrative, and I included more stuff about truth, which is a central concern for me but which snuck its way unexpectedly into the story.

I already hate what I wrote anew, but Matt read it anyway and said that he thought I was closer to making meaning out of the story instead of it being mere fun. I'm going to rewrite again - maybe using a different method than the haphazard way I went about the job yesterday - and hopefully I'll hate it less and bring even more meaning into the story. I admitted to Matt that I liked the story the way it was, when it was just for fun, but I want it publishable, not merely fun, so I've got to do better.

I didn't revise any of the too-clever-by-half aspects, because that's stylistic, and there really isn't much I can do about that. Here's a sample sentence:
The day was so crisp it could have been bagged and sold by Frito-Lay, and the sky was a jewel.
See, the first metaphor is amusing and allusive and slightly odd and risky, but the second one is pretty cliched and ordinary. That's the tension that I'm trying to keep taut throughout the whole word count. If a reader thinks the story's smarmy instead of delightful, I suspect that's kind of her problem, not mine.

I was going to try one other type of revision, where the narrative occurs in a regular paragraph and the other text is shaped in a sideways bell curve

in the margins, so it looks like my own identity as author is swelling out of the story. I don't know if that would have worked. I like the way I did it with the text running sideways and upside down - it reminds me of a cross-written letter, when people wrote over their own text to save postage

(found here, click to embiggen)

- but, after all, I'm not writing a concrete poem here; what it looks like interests me a good deal less than whether that look works for the reader.

In other news, I have some new writing to do, on a story I haven't started yet because its embarrassment of options has stumped me, but most of what's on my plate right now is revision. Yay, revision. Yaaaaay. I recently read this quote from Matt Fraction:
I can rewrite anything. WRITING remains a motherfucker I must be tricked into doing at all costs and at all times.
to which I said (to my computer), great, how about I write and you revise? Forever? Because that is the exact photo negative of me. Writing may be revising, but I nevertheless find revising unbearable.

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