Thursday, April 16, 2009

Revision Revisited

The word "confluence" appears all over this page I know, but it is something real, something organic, a thing I have come to believe in and and an expression I have come to use where others might use karma or sycronicity or even community. It has particular meaning for me in regards to writing and is on my mind nearly always when I am in the deep trenches of revision. Particularly when one is revising a novel, perhaps the strongest force directing revision is finding the points of confluence, finding, if you will, where the threads interect like the fibers from which the woven garment is constructed. Where does an image need to reoccur? Where does a signifier associated with a character help prepare for her future self or indicate his lingering presence? Where does one chapter echo another? More imortantly still, when one trusts the organic nature of the creative process, how can one learn to listen to the text by paying attention to where currents naturally intersect?

In his wonderful novel The Goat Bridge T.M. McNally writes: "Study the common things of this world long enough and things reveal increasingly what they have in common: namely, the language by which we describe them. This search for detecting forms of order and arrangement, always, is the work of all artists, regardless of form." Such is the work of book-length revision, detecting order, studying arrangement via shared language. Do so long enough, carefully enough and you create work that achieves intrinsic unity. Then maybe, if you have done your job well, the book helps you see how such unity is reflected in the world around you too, for it is the world that gave you the book from within the confuence of the imaginative and the real.

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