Water Sports

November 1, 2010 at 7:13 am (Uncategorized)

It’s positively bucketing down, although thankfully I got my walk in this morning well before it started, during which I saw whales mucking about offshore, which is quite a lovely way to start the week. It’s apparently a bumper season for migration sightings, but I keep missing them, so you can probably imagine the goofy smile on my dial when I looked out and finally saw these fellas throwing their vast weight around – I think my grin was almost as wide as the one spread right across my face yesterday, when I hopped on my bike for the first time in months. Llewie was busy out the back, stripping paint off the family bassinet we’re planning to use for Baby J’s early months, and needed me to go to the hardware store for some more tins of the frighteningly noxious stripping stuff (the potential threat of lead in the layers of old paint truly paling against this level of fall-down toxicity!).

The path to the hardware store is dead flat, takes me right along the beachfront, and is marked by a shared pedestrian/cycleway the entire way – perfect even for a pregnant woman. What I hadn’t reckoned on was the sheer pleasure of it – it felt absolutely lovely, so deliciously free, the sun on my skin, the sea breeze drying my hair as I pedalled at my leisure, my wide load comfortably supported by the cruiser’s low body and fat seat. Admittedly Llew was a bit anxious about my riding in the first place, so I could hardly wait to get back to tell him how much FUN I’d just had. Oh, it felt brilliant, it really did. And I’m sure Baby J enjoyed it too as we came whizzing down the beach promenade, happily headed for home.

Today I am thinking of my MS and new story ideas. I’m mulling over some of the redrafting advice that’s come my way thanks to researching this month’s Varuna feature, on the all-important second draft. If you’re interested, you can read the feature here. Of course, I’m well past the second draft stage, I don’t even know what draft this is, but I am still turning it all over in my mind, trying to decide what still applies. Much of it does. The main thing I’m wondering is if this MS is at a stage where I can fill in the gaps, or if instead I’d be better off treating it almost as a first draft, and starting over, embarking upon a “second” draft as upon a whole new and distinct journey. Yes, that promises to be vast amounts of work, but I’m not sure that all my plastering and puttying isn’t a false economy, even now when the draft is hopefully reasonably advanced. It’s a vaguely sickening thought, really starting it all over, but I wonder if it’s not what’s required. Certainly every other draft has continued springing leaks – which is why Llew is the handyman of our household. Anyway, it bears thinking about.

There’s also a different faint glimmer at the edges of my vision for a new short story idea, but before I do anything about it, I’m going to have another look at Mark Welker’s post about his short story ‘Without Country,’ out now in Griffith REVIEW’s annual fiction issue alongside our own Darkling Jewelene’s award-winning story ‘The Geometry Lesson.’ You may remember Mark from his gorgeous Varuna videolog; well, this post about the writing of ‘Without Country’ is just as riveting. It’s a detailed dissection of the entire process of creating the story, and stands as a very humbling testament to the sheer level of application required to make a short story work. As I’ve detailed countless times on this blog, I really struggle with the short form, and reading Mark’s post last week, I began to really understand why: I haven’t committed sufficiently, I haven’t worked adequately, I haven’t edited ruthlessly enough to break through to the other side, where a half decent story may yet exist. I’ll never know unless I work on the drafts of short stories the way I work on the drafts of my MS: obsessively, and repeatedly. That definition of insanity, of doing the same thing over and over and over and expecting a different result, that’s a writer’s life. That’s the only way across the dark ocean separating where I’d like to be in my writing from where I am.

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9 Comments

  1. charlotteotter said,

    I found Mark’s post astonishing and it made me realise that I have given short fiction short shrift. It’s a very hard form, not an easy one, and my attitude so far has been lackadaisical to the say the least.

    Yay for whale sightings and bike rides! Where you live sounds idyllic.

    • doctordi said,

      Charlotte, I completely agree – Mark’s process showed up ALL my attempts as so much half-baked grey greasy dough. It gave me a really hard pinch on the arm.

      Don’t start me evangelising about Man Town, I’ll never stop.

  2. litlove said,

    I don’t know – I’m all for the small intervention that makes a big difference. Signposting, for instance, is something you can’t put in during the early stages, but when you know what you want the story to be doing, it can produce miracles. Cutting is great, because once the bits that are extra or irrelevant or just not working disappear, it reveals the real gaps in the fabric of the text. You’ve done huge rewrites before, Di, so you know from experience what the pros and cons are. Look back on that and I’m sure you’ll know just how to approach your ms.

    • doctordi said,

      Darling, it turns out you are spot on – heading back into the MS today, it’s clear to me that it *has* progressed, it’s not a first draft, and it’s small interventions – though right the way through – that’s most required now. I don’t think the problems that remain are the gaping chasms of old. Cutting as you know has become something of an area of expertise of mine – that’s not going to be a problem, my floor is strewn with dead darlings – so… now I just have to Mind the Gap and get back on that bloody train…

  3. Lilian Nattel said,

    It sounds like such a happy spring day, Di. It’s sunny here, too, though definitely fall. I’m glad to hear you’re thinking over various writerly things. I agree that short stories are a challenging form. Not one I’ve mastered yet either. But there’s always the future.

    • doctordi said,

      I was practically clicking my heels, Lilian!

      Yes, I think just about everyone underestimates the difficulty of the short story, readers and writers both. But maybe we’ll both tackle the task head on in future – let’s try!

  4. Norwichrocks said,

    One of the things I most love about the life and work of Leonardo da Vinci is the fact that he kept the Mona Lisa with him for the last 16 years of his life, working and re-working it, and that he NEVER considered it finished. One of the greatest paintings ever created, and its creator wasn’t satisfied with it. Which I always remind myself of whenever I feel overwhelmed by how much work a painting or drawing still needs – maybe the same is true of writing?

    And the cycling sounds marvellous!!!

  5. doctordi said,

    The cycling was tremendously satisfying and is highly recommended!

    Oh yes, I think so. I think it’s exactly the same with writing, and for this and many other reasons, I strongly believe writers and artists have a great, great deal in common.

  6. Pete said,

    That cycling sounds idyllic! And whales too. *sigh*
    Best of luck with the revisions.

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