Sunday, January 9, 2011

Words, Bread and Mark Twain

So today I was going to write about how I had to knuckle down to yet another round of edits for Dark Dealings.  Editing is so painful.  Some of those edits are undoing things I tried to change in response to the myriad of comments from others.  I find that I had revised the critical first 5 pages so many times that it had gone from okay to good to worse. 

But like others who value the written word I have been derailed by the growing debate over the revisions to Huckleberry Finn.  I was raised in Jersey City and heard what is euphemistically called the N-word more times than I could count.  It is an abhorrent word, but more important was my response to it.  I learned early on the power of words to hurt, heal and teach.  I also grew up in a family that liked to sweep things under the rug.  If you didn’t talk about divorce, death or disease somehow it would all go away.  But silence is a killer.  Do we sanitize language because it makes us uncomfortable?  Should schools not perform plays like The Laramie Project because it includes offensive terms and ideas about homosexuality?  What about The Diary of Ann Frank?  At the same time as I was listening to the N-word being flung around I was reading and discussing Huckleberry Finn and Richard Wright’s Black Boy in English class.   How different might my life have been if only the street talk prevailed, if the offending words had been erased from books, and there had been no discussion of the power of words?  Literature teaches us about who we are or were as a people, your response to it teaches you who you are as a person.

So what am I learning from the need to re-write? Writing can be like bread dough knead it too much and it becomes tough and unworkable.  It is time, experience and mistakes that teach readiness.   But like any novice, we need instruction and guidance.  Sometimes it is from beta-readers, sometimes it is in the form of rejection letters from an agent or editor.  But it is feedback that has been given to me to decide what to do with it.  And no one has yet to suggest that I a change the tone or message or my story.  And should anyone try to change them after I am gone, know that I am certain of the hereafter and will haunt you.

Where do you stand on revisionist literature?