The Rewrite Chronicles: Silence Is Everything

Silence is not golden; it is infinite. Silence holds everything–every thrilling and dreadful possibility–like the vastness of space. The possibility you latch onto may well depend on where you think you stand staring up the stars. Are you part of something grand or are you an insignificant speck?

Or more importantly–do your friends think you’re a good writer or do they think you’re another deluded crackpot?

When my friends (and these friends are the people in my real, non-internet life, not the disembodied friends I’ve met in cyberspace) say nothing about my work, I’m an insignificant speck. I couple years ago I sent a group of friends copy of my first novel. Since then I’ve torn the novel apart. I cut 40,000 words. Combined a few characters into one. Added a dramatically different plot twist and changed the ending. Conversations about the rewrite tended to go like this.

“So, I rewrote that novel you read. Like really. I cut 40 thousand words and changed the ending!”

“Oh wow. That’s good. Say, did I tell you I finally got to see that movie this weekend. You know, the one about…”

People have busy lives with children with constant demands, bosses with endless requests, bills that keep coming, and dirt that continues to accumulate. Reading anything beyond their email is a challenge. Look at the numbers of people who are bothering to read books at all–forget books by their friends.

I’ve written about this silence before, but the angst still hasn’t gone away. Probably never will. But when I’m in the middle of writing, I am part of something grand, another star in the universe. When I notice the silence, I am a speck. Of course, if I did hear anything, the words might well be ones I don’t want to hear.

Be careful what you wish for.

So, who do you share your writing with and what do you expect?

Sparkle, sparkle, little star.

8 thoughts on “The Rewrite Chronicles: Silence Is Everything

  1. Along the lines of concern about reading, there was an interesting article in The Atlantic. It’s titled Is Google Making Us Stupid?

    The gist of the article is that as we’re on the computer more and inundated with information, we are less likely — even capable — of delving deeply into written text. Maybe that’s the case. I do a lot of skimming these days, and I haven’t picked up a book to read in months, though in part that’s because I have an infant and a fried brain. I want and need to get back to reading. I’m just challenged to find the time where I am awake enough and alone long enough to do that.

  2. There are not many people in my real life who care much about my writing — aside from my husband, who still doesn’t regularly read my blog. I think most of the friends I have who care about writing are all online — writing! 😉

  3. How many of us have been influenced by writers we’ve never met in real life, having only the connection of the printed page? How many more still speak to us from beyond the grave? It is good to see one’s readers in person just as it is good to tell our stories to familiar faces, but the force of the outreach is inevitable, and we become brothers and sisters under the skin and the page. And the web. And the heart.

  4. kathryn, I’m not sure it is entirely fair to blame Google, but I’ll read the article.

    mamampj, maybe people who know else well, just know us too well to want to read our work. Or something like that. I mean, you can read my work without many associations with me, and somehow this makes it more compelling. Or something. I think I’m rambling here.

    To Shelly Lowenkopf, your blog puts many things about this writing career in perspective–and I’ve never met you! Thanks.

  5. Sarah

    I showed my novel early in the first draft, to one colleague- a professional writer and editor, but of non-fiction. She gave me just enough encouragement to keep going. Since then, I have followed Jane Smiley’s advice from “thirteen ways of looking at a novel”- show no one your first draft. This advice really helped me because I realized that up until that point, when I shared work with friends or family, a) what I wanted to hear was “keep going” and only I can truly supply that motivation b)if a friend or family member said something positive I mostly didn’t trust it and c) if anyone said anything negative I took it too hard. I don’t ask my husband to read my work because he loves me but isn’t interested in the kind of writing I do and wouldn’t know what to say, and frankly couldn’t offer any objective feedback. I haven’t shown it to any fellow fiction writers because the lines get too blurred between editor, friend, critic,and fellow-competitor. I guess what I’m realizing is that the best people to share work with are those who can respond on a more professional level, with no emotional attachment to either me or my work.

  6. I’m taking a little breather time because we launch out into our journey this morning….!

    I know how you feel. I’ve asked very few people aside from my writing group to read my work. I wish I had better readers, and I’m grateful for the people I’ve met online who like to read/write and know what a critique means. I like what everyone else said here, so I’m going to leave my comment at that!

  7. I don’t usually show a piece until it is in the third draft, and even then I present it as a work-in-progress. There are only two people with whom I share: my best friend and my husband. I tend to have concerns about length, tone, and whether or not I used too many metaphors or was redundant. My best friend is very good at critiquing the emotional aspects of my writing. She’ll tell me if the project is too forceful or she’ll have suggestions about tying in this or that to tidy up the ending. If she cries, I know I did well. My husband is better with the technical aspects. I really value his opinions on the technique, but I take it with a grain of salt. I write creative non-fiction, he does technical, professional writing, and his general comment is “brevity is the soul of wit.”, to which I say, Pshaw!

  8. Sophie, I don’t share my work with my husband. Call me flawed, but I worry that he’ll think my writing is crap, and then all the time I’ve taken away from family/home type things will seem, well, like a problem. A kind of “we’ve made all these sacrifices for this?!” Pains the heart. I’ve found a few writing friends who are a good readers, but it’s just never enough!

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