My Sacramento writing group is a shape shifting organization. The latest configuration is led by my stalwart inspiration and fairy tale goddess friend Tricia. Our newest member is Rucha, gorgeous and talented West Twin of blogging fame. Both of these women can write and I’m not kidding. We meet a couple times a month at Tricia’s house where we drink tea and eat some wonderful thing Tricia made and talk about our work.
(Pause #1 at this moment for a prayer of thanks for the friend who knows your tea type and makes it for you without asking.)
Today the first chapter of my latest book was on the block. Rucha and Tricia had swift criticism about the scene where a woman of an unclear age gets a man of unclear danger out of an unclear shower at an unclear homeless shelter.
The rest of the chapter flows, they said. It’s just the beginning that’s out of context, ambiguous and confusing.
(Pause #2 to bow down to the friendship of intelligent women.)
The scene that I wrote where the very young woman is the only one in the homeless shelter with the courage to get the schizophrenic man out of the shower happened. I was the volunteer. The sick man was the resident. Everyone was afraid of him but me.
The scene fails where it is written from memory and picks back up when pure fiction takes over. This is not the first time a critical reader has noted implausibility in a story that I have based on a true adventure of my own.
In case I didn’t get the message this morning, later this afternoon the outstanding and ravishing Cynthia Reeser, editor of the literary magazine Prick of the Spindle, had a copyedit note for me on a story of mine that she has accepted for publication.
The story features a seventeen-year-old college student and drug addict stranded at a bus station. “She’s in college?” the comment reads. “Need to adjust timeline.”
I really was a seventeen-year-old college student vagabond stranded at midnight at a bus station in a miserable part of a city far from home. My response to the edit: That character is nineteen now. Timeline adjusted.
(Pause #3 for an interpretive dance of joy that Cynthia Reeser is paying attention to my work.)
When I write from true adventure I forget to think about my readers. The point of fiction is to tell a story not to write a letter to myself.
Remember the time when the homeless fellow reached for you in the steam? Remember when you were seventeen and riding the roads for love?
Now I revise my novel with my readers in mind. I sand down every sentence, paying extra attention to the parts gleaned from life. It is in the true parts when I stray from truth. In revisions I take extra care to tell the beautiful lie that uncovers the thing I mean to say and tells the truth in a way only an untrue story can.
|Tricia loves me this I know because the Tazo tells me so.|