writing is rewriting
I’ve decided that if you’re tired of reading all of the navel-gazing posts I make about my Fathers and Sons stories then that’s just too bad. It’s my blog, after all, isn’t it? But I’m having a wild ride writing these stories, and they’ve given me plenty of cause for reflection about purpose and craft.
I call them a story cycle. Each piece stands fine on its own. Indeed, I’ve already begun submitting a couple of them to mags. Collected, though, they inform and illuminate each other.
I’ve come to realize that in many ways, I’m writing a novel. If so, I’m going about it in a mad way. Out of sequence. Not fully aware of the overall plot. Contradicting myself as the stories emerge. It’s a wooly beast, these Fathers and Sons stories. But I’ve been energized by them over the last few months in a way I’ve never felt about my other writing, so I conclude there is something worthy about all of the effort to tame that beast.
The first story I wrote, “The Death of Superman,” was intended to be a one off. At the time, I never imagined that any other stories could come from that universe. But come they did. I blame my little cabin in the woods. That “Superman” story is set there (or at a cabin much like mine, only a little nicer), and since my cabin is such an important part of my life, it’s been offering itself to me as an inspiration for other stories. I soon wrote a story entitled “When we were young and life was full in us.” I think it may be the most perfect story I’ve ever written. I’ve read it dozens of times now, but I no longer see a word or phrase that needs changing. It’s done, and I think it evokes exactly the tone I sought.
Both “Superman” and “When we were young” are now being shopped around. “Superman” has already received two rejections, and if the other markets it’s gone to reject it as well, I’ll be fine with that. I’ve had to rewrite it.
As I conceive them now, “Superman” will be the penultimate story in the chronology; all but one of the stories will take place before the events of that one. What I’ve found is that the years I reference in “Superman” are not aligning themselves with the years in which the preceding stories take place. Fixing that is not so difficult, and I have rewritten it to correct the reference problems, but this little universe is still revealing itself to me, and there may be other rewrites it will need.
In fact, one that I’ve already had to address is the voice of that story’s narrator. My Fathers and Sons stories deal with the lives of a man, his son, and that man’s son: grandfather, father, son. “Superman” is narrated in the first person by the middle character. When I wrote the story, many months ago, I gave him an educated voice. He had a decent vocabulary and good reflective skills. But that’s become a problem in the months since. That character, let’s call him David, since that’s the name I’ve given him, has turned out to be a simple man. A C student. Decent. Honest. Hardworking. Loving. But not all that complicated. The voice I had originally given him was more erudite than he would have, given the way I’ve written him since. So I went through “Superman” recently, scrubbing up those time references and adjusting the word choices in the first-person narration to reflect what a more simple man might use.
I wonder, though, what would happen if one of the remaining mags considering “Superman” decided to accept it. Can I tell them there is a revision? Would that put their acceptance in jeopardy? Or does that happen all the time? And let’s say they do accept the rewrite (it’s minor stuff — it doesn’t affect the plot of the story) and publish it. I’m still discovering the story universe. What if I need to make further revisions to it down the road? (For the inevitable collection, of course.)
I suppose I shouldn’t concern myself too much with worries like these. I should focus my energy on just getting the stories written and polished. Right?
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