Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Subconscious Thoughts

Back yonks ago there was a discussion about writer's block and the whole creative process. Well, I am reading Graham Greene's The End of the Affair. I will now confess I have never read any Greene before. You wonder how a woman with an English Lit degree from Mount Holyoke has not read Greene? The only thing I can say in my defence is that I had a concentration on Medieval Studies. I digress. I am now reading Greene because of Susan Hill's Creative Writing Course. She strongly suggested that we read at least one of his books. So Atonement has been put on hold.

I know you wonder where all this is going.......well we all spoke about block and the need to give the subconscious a chance to catch up. In Greene's Bendrix words:

So much in writing depends on the superficiality of one's days. One may be preoccupied with shopping and income tax returns and chance conversations, but the stream of the unconscious continues to flow undisturbed, solving problems, planning ahead: one sits down sterile and dispirited at the desk, and suddenly the words come as though from the air: the situations that seemed blocked in a hopeless impasse move forward: the work has been done while one slept or shopped or talked with friends.

There it all is explained so beautifully with just the right emphasis on shopping - don't you think?

Snowy is here and has a stinking cold. I think I will see if today it disappears with his jet lag otherwise it's a trip to the vets!

You will note on my side bar that I have started editing A Cornish House. I think I now have enough distance from it to begin the cutting and crafting. yesterday Cally asked me about my editing process when she noticed that August Rock has been through so many revisions. At this point in my writing I can't seem to focus on too many editing tasks - plot, pace, prose. So I do an edit for each one and makes notes for things that jump out at me. For example on the first 15 pages of ACH yesterday it was mostly language, but I can to a passage and I thought why the hell did I include that? What does it tell the reader? Does it serve any useful purpose other than increasing the word count? SO I highlighted it and left it on the hard copy. When it came to inputting my changes later in the day on the 'puter I cut that seen even though I was really focusing on the words that bit stuck out like a sore thumb and it had to go this edit.


Flowerpot said...

I haven't read any G Greene for donkey's years Liz. good for you, and I'm amazed at hw quickly you are back to editing - you are truly incredible! Best of luck with it.

Leatherdykeuk said...

I'm impressed. It seems like only five minutes since you finished writing ACH

liz fenwick said...

Thanks guys......I must keep working. It keeps me sane or should I say limits the inasanity :-)

Nell said...

I do different edit runs for different things too. Something that works well for me is that once I've edited for repetition and adverbs and passive voice I go to the end of the book and work backwards. I go paragraph by paragraph looking to see if I can make it stronger, does it work etc.I was never a Graham Greene fan.

Kate.Kingsley said...

Interesting comments ~ I sort of had in my head that I would edit for different things in dfferent stages when I get to that stage too. Good luck with it, you're really pressing ahead.

As someone who also has an Eng Lit degre, I'd be thoroughly ashamed to list the amount of classic novels / authors I haven't read. They come and take my degree certificate back off me!

Best wishes
Kate K

liz fenwick said...

Nell, I'm so pleased I'm not alone in my approach to editing :-)

Kate, ditto that you too haven't read 'enough' classics!

CTaylor said...

Thanks for the note on your editing process Liz. Your approach certainly makes sense.

I promised myself that I'd just read through my novel before I did anything (no editing allowed) but I found the waffle and the slack prose a distraction so my first edit is a re-write to cut all of that out (which is why my total word count is falling so quickly!)

My next stage is to sketch out all the chapters using Jane (Wannabe a Writers)'s chart idea so I can see if the balance of the story is right (and I'm not focussing too much on my secondry story lines).

Then I'm going to go through and, as you have, look at plot, then characterisation, then pace, then another go at language, show not tell, cliche deletion...

Oh God...there's so much to do.

This is SUCH a learning experience I feel like I could be editing forever!

liz fenwick said...

Published friends have said Cally that you don't stop until it's in print and you're not allowed any more :-)

Kate.Kingsley said...

PS: on an unrelated matter, just wanted to say a huge “thank you” for your lovely supportive comments on my blog when I was a bit wobbly and overloaded the other week ~ I really do appreciate you taking the time to offer advice & kind thoughts, and I am blown away by what a wonderful support system we have going here.

Also cheers for the heads up on Susan Hill's writing course ~ haven't checked her site for a few weeks, but I'm intrugued so shall head on over there,

Best Wishes
Kate K

Lisa said...

I ordered From Where You Dream, by Robert Olen Butler after reading a really interesting post at One Hand Typing (there's a link at my place). I've just started it and the tone can be a little off putting, but he's got a fascinating perspective on writing from the "white hot center", the subconscious. He quotes Graham Greene in a very early chapter, as a matter of fact and he also has some pretty hard core thoughts on writer's block. Most writers will state that it doesn't exist. Butler is pretty opinionated and insists that it does and that bad writers never get blocked -- if you can get past that (and according to the reviews on Amazon, quite a few can and quite a few can't), he's got some fascinating views on writing from the subconscious.

cs harris said...

Hope Snowy starts feeling better. Their little systems have trouble with stress. We almost lost three of our five cats--plus my mother's when we flew her and her cat out to California--in the weeks after Katrina. The vets said it was brought on by stress. (which meant we added $750 in vet bills on top of everything else!)