Writing is a lonely pursuit, and reading it aloud transformed it into an interactive experience It also brought the text to life. When Anne read her material to Meg she picked up the difficulties and polished them out so that the writing flowed more smoothly. Occasionally, there were a few ruffled feathers and a spot of wounded pride, but almost always the process was revealing and sometimes downright entertaining.
Joanne Drayton, The Search for Anne Perry
- Q: Why did the author write the story?
- Q: Why did the author make the character do such-and-such?
I had a ready answer for each:
- For money.
- Because that’s the way it happened.
But I knew my teacher wouldn’t be happy with that, so every day, I made up an acceptable answer to each question. Looking back, I realize I was doing creative writing. My first foray into fiction, I guess.
At that time, I thought writers started at the beginning of the story and stopped at the end. I thought everything that occurred was inevitable. I knew about revision–I’d done plenty of that getting my master’s thesis in order–but my idea of revision was really editing and polishing. I didn’t know it meant restructuring, creating new characters, taking out some of the best parts if they didn’t fit with the rest, sometimes tossing the whole manuscript and starting over.
Writing is a lonely occupation. Revision, however, isn’t. Writers are people who need people.
I spent months writing the first three [what I called] chapters over and over. Somewhere in that over and over I figured out that those chapters weren’t going to turn into a book. I was lucky–the Writers’ League of Texas held a meeting designed to help writers form critique groups. I took two pages of my manuscript–in small pieces, the chapters weren’t too bad–and by the end of the evening was part of a three-person group.
In the course of ten years, membership has changed. I’m the only one of the originals still involved. We’ve worked, done some struggling, learned how to detach and see our work with new eyes. We’ve occasionally ruffled one another’s feathers, but we’ve learned how to ruffle, and be ruffled, appropriately. We’ve gone together to workshops and retreats. We’ve encouraged one another. We’ve become better writers. Because of repeated critiques, we’re all now published.
Without the aid of other writers, I might have given up a long time ago. With their aid, I don’t just rewrite–I look again. I re-vise.
I’ve also come up with better answers to those seventh-grade questions.
And I’m not lonely any more.
- Why did the author write the story?
- Definitely not for money.
Joanne Drayton. The Search for Anne Perry. New York: HarperCollins, 2012.