This post is not about quilts. It is about writing. The Friendship Quilts is the name of the novel I finished yesterday. Finished the third draft which was largely a matter editing. Part of the reason I have lately been so concentrated on bad grammar and bad writing is that I've been fighting that battle with myself for two months now. I care about how sentences read; I know I sometimes write weak sentences. I have been weeding out "waffle" phrases that make statements less clear than they should be. I sometimes don't think clearly enough to make paragraphs coherent. Rewriting of this sort is much slower than the original writing. In the first draft the story is simply flowing; in this draft I stop, start, rewrite, reconsider, words, commas, phrases.
I fight the simple blind spots, the typos that are so easy to overlook when the fingers have typed in instead of on, than instead of then, when a comma has been left out or a quotation mark. These matter. Very lucky people have careful, erudite secretaries; most writers have to do it themselves. [I envy those the men who have dedicated wives who take on that role.] This kind of "writing" is drudgery but it is also an opportunity to buff the hardwood floor and make it shine.
Of course I do not know that the novel tells the story perfectly. [Is it linoleum instead of hardwood?] I know I have blind spots. Perhaps sometime I'll be told by an agent or editor "This doesn't work" -- about only certain sections, not the whole, I fervently hope.
The novel makes me happy because it came quickly and seems a gift I have given myself for so many years of working at and caring about the writer's craft. The story, the characters, spewed forth like a decorative fountain turned on after being turned off during the winter. An apt analogy because I had not worked on a novel for probably ten or twelve years. And now --? Well, actually, I must read through once more because of those sneaky hidden typos [and, as I find them, no doubt I'll find other missed opportunities to be clearer]. But beyond the novel now comes the part I hate: trying to write a good synopsis and a good query and then the waiting and then the rejection. Then an amended query and another rejection ... after a while, maybe a tentative "maybe" or even "yes" ... or not ...
If I make a quilt, when the binding is on and the label too, I can sleep under it and stay warm. I can share the novel with friends who will say nice things and I will appreciate their kindness but my goal has always been to communicate with strangers from whom I expect nothing but that they read what I write. I am always happy to give away my quilts, they are usually accepted with gratitude. The world is such that giving away a novel is almost impossible, and so the rejections ... sigh.
ELDER MUSIC: 1975 - This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge an...
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