Friday, September 28, 2012

Entry # 97 - "What Helps Writers Grow?"

Photo Credit - Jim Wilson - August 2012
So what helps writers grow? What helps expedite the revision process? In Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft, she describes relying on the help of competent readers, those people who have the skills to read thoughtfully and respond honestly.  Writers grow when they have selected careful readers who provide feedback that responds not only to the strengths, those things that worked within a given text,  but more importantly, text based things that did not work for the reader.  

Burroway describes the process of having a trusted reader "lay a finger on the trouble spot" in the text. Those places where the reader began to feel - "I didn't understand this" or "Why did she do that?" or "I didn't believe this" and while this sort of feedback makes most of us cringe, the truth is this type of text based criticism is important to hear, absorb, and accept if we are committed to improving our writing work. Burroway says, "This kind of laying-the-finger-on-the-trouble-spot produces an inward groan, but it's also satisfying; you know just where to go to work." 

While some approach the revision process with fear and loathing, most writers are invested in making a piece of writing as good as it can be. Getting the first draft done is only the beginning. Burroway says, "Making it right will involve a second commitment, to seeing the story fresh and creating it again with the advantage of this [process of] re-vision."

Marianne Moore said, "The thing is to see the vision and not deny it; to care and admit that we do."  It helps me to remember that almost anything I write can be improved. But that doesn't mean it's not good or even worthy of publication. Writing is revision. Revision is writing. It's a process. It is a growth process. It is an ongoing process.

Photo Credit - Jim Wilson - August 2012
"The creative process is not all inventive; it is partly corrective, critical, nutritive, and fostering --a matter of getting this creature to be the best that it can be. William C. Knott, in The Craft of Fiction, cogently observes that 'anyone can write --and almost everyone you meet these days is writing. However, only writers know [or learn] how to rewrite. It is this ability alone that turns the amateur into a pro.'"   ----Janet Burroway - Writing Fiction: A Guide to Narrative Craft.

Jan Bowman’s work has appeared in Roanoke Review, Big Muddy, Broadkill Review, Trajectory, Third Wednesday, Minimus, Buffalo Spree (97), Folio, The Potomac Review, Musings, Potato Eyes, and others. She won the 2012 Roanoke Review Prize for Fiction. Her stories have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize, Best American Short Stories and a story was a finalist in the “So To Speak” Fiction Contest. She is working on two collections of short stories and currently shopping for a publisher for a completed story collection. She has nonfiction work pending publication in Spring 2013 Issues of Trajectory and Pen-in-Hand. She writes a weekly blog of “Reflections” on the writing life and posts regular interviews with writers and publishers.   Learn more at:

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