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Brandi_R
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Topic 11: Being Done

Susan Breen, an author and Gotham Writers’ Workshop teacher, is in the process of publishing her first book, The Fiction Class and she’s keeping a blog that documents this whole experience. (There’s a great recent post about what it was like to see her book cover for the first time.) In one entry, she discusses the difficulty of knowing when a piece is done. Check out the post here: Being Done. Then come back and let’s discuss some of the questions she explores: How do you know when you’re done with a work of creative writing? How good is good enough?
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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APenForYourThoughts
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

Well, Paul Valery said it nicely when he said, "A poem is never finished, only abandoned." This certainly applies not only to poetry but to any kind of writing. I always have a hard time deciding when a story is done, because I always think that there surely must be something I can do to make it better -- a word change, moving a sentence, adding something, taking something away, etc. I haven't even attempted to be published yet, so it must be a million times worse if your work is about to be published, because once it's done, it's done. You can't pull it out of your desk drawer years later and make changes to it, or rather you can but they are absolutely futile if your work is already in print. My typical process of writing a story is this: I write a first draft, then put it away for at least 24 hours, and then begin revising. I revise at least three times, but usually more, until I decide that I'm as happy as I'll ever be with it and file it away in a folder. I don't think it's possible to ever be completely satisfied with a story as a whole; I find that I am often more satisfied with individual sentences or phrases than with the way they all fit together, because they seem like rare and valuable flashes of inspiration and beauty. But I think you get to a certain point at which you either are generally happy with the story or are tired of reading it over and over and obsessing about it so that you now hate the subject immensely and cannot see how you ever had that passionate moment at which you desperately needed a pen and paper, and then you can consider it done. My test for determining whether something I've written is done is to put it aside and forget about it for a while until I somehow stumble upon it again. I then read it, and if it sounds hopeless, I just put it away (I can never throw anything I write away), and if it sounds wonderful and pleasing to me, I'll keep it the way it is, and if it sounds promising, I'll continue to revise. You don't really have the same luxury with a published work, though. I may have that to look forward to someday...
"A book must be the axe for the frozen sea inside us." --Kafka
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marcialou
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

Since I've never submitted anything for publication, I guess you can say I have never finished anything, although there are some things I have abandoned. I like what Susan Breen says about loving your characters and not wanting to leave them. My characters are like my children. Maybe that's why I started writing again when my youngest left home.

Marcia
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SusanBreen
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

Thanks so much for mentioning my blog and book. Of course the problem with being done is now I have to deal with the expectation of doing something new. And something good. And something fast. It's a nice problem to have and I won't whine too much, but do you ever wonder if your brain is only so big and you only have so much to say?
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marcialou
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done


SusanBreen wrote:
...do you ever wonder if your brain is only so big and you only have so much to say?




As a hobbyist writer, with no expectations that I keep churning things out, I haven't had this problem yet; but I understand what you mean. The muse can be fickle. Sometimes I get stuck and I think, "I'll never finish this project and I'll never write again." So far I haven't stopped writing but it seems that writer's block is lurking at every corner.

Marcia
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

That’s a great quote to share, ApenForYourThoughts. Certainly we hit a point when we’re finished with the piece, even if the piece itself isn’t yet finished. And Marica, what an interesting parallel—your youngest leaving home and your writing again. It does speak to the relationship between writer and character. Have you abandoned anything that you do feel has reached some sort of completion—like, you’ve gotten to the end of the story, or accomplished the characterization the way you wanted to? I think it’s interesting to go back and see what vital bit of craft I really learned—and internalized—from past works.

Susan, you mention having to do something new fast. Are you working under an even more intense deadline with your new book? How has the writing of this next one been different than that of The Fiction Class? Have your thoughts about the writing process changed in any way with your experience of “being done” with this first book?

And thanks for stopping by, Susan. I've really enjoyed following your publishing experience through your blog.
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com
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marcialou
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done


Brandi_R wrote:
Have you abandoned anything that you do feel has reached some sort of completion—like, you’ve gotten to the end of the story, or accomplished the characterization the way you wanted to?




I post my work on writing.com, first to get comments for revision, and also so maybe a few people will see the "completed" work. There are a few pieces that are done for now, and a few more I'd like to get back to some day. Then there are 3 works of fiction and one essay in progress. I haven't "published" anything in over a month and I miss the rush of seeing that I actually have new readers. But since I write almost every day, I now have the satisfaction of knowing that I write, at least in part, to write, and not just for the thrill of having readers.

Marcia
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BridgetORourke
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

Even a short story that I am only going to share with my writing group never seems done. I can go back and find better ways of saying things, or delete or add in moment to moment inspirations. Every time I re-read I find something I want or need to change. Until I have read it and heard the critiques, both positive and negative...then I am done. I don't even want to re-read it myself. I lose interest. I have had my moment of a captive audience for that piece and it seems it has had it's life, it's moment on the stage, and has bowed out gracefully, never to be heard from again. Instead I prefer to just take the feedback and hopefully remember it for the next thing I write. My writing group on the other hand wants more from me like several chapters following the story line, but I just want to get on the next thing that grabs my imagination. I had a therapist once who encouraged me to practice the emotional art of "touch & go." She even wrote and published a book by that title. I guess I learned the technique really well, am applying it to my writing, and find it quite satisfying.
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Brandi_R
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Re: Topic 11: Being Done

Marcia and BridgetORourke, there really is something to that part of the process that involves an audience, whether it be a writing group or a readership through publication. I find once I get to the point where I’m going to share a piece, I do look at it—and work with it—a little differently.
letterpressfiction.blogspot.com