Monday, February 02, 2015

Writing About Writing

I finished the Pendle Hill pamphlet ahead of schedule. The only two things that needed to be created from scratch were an introduction and a conclusion. Most everything else had been written previously for the Quaker online community known as QuakerQuaker. I had to revise a few things here and there, but mostly for continuity. My tentative title is "Healthy Confrontation and Meeting Discipline." That, too, may change before the end of the process.

Now for the waiting. A panel of four editors will meet to discuss suggested revisions. A copy editor will go through the text with a fine-toothed comb. As I've said before, I would be shocked if my first draft will emerge unscathed. The pamphlet, as originally visioned, contains ten separate but basically contiguous sections. One of them is probably too controversial and another will likely be judiciously gutted for the same reason. Fortunately, the maximum word count is 9,000 words, and pruning a few hundred or maybe a thousand words won't require much additional work.

I am rapidly approaching Professional Quaker status, if I haven't already achieved it. For those who are not Quaker, a Pendle Hill pamphlet is seen as authoritative and of uniformly high quality. Only five are published each year. Publication means that one can truly be considered a bonafide Quaker writer. Some see me this way already, but authenticity, not respect, is what I seek now. In case you were curious, the best known living Quaker writer is probably Parker Palmer.

My text talks generally about the fear of confrontation that create multiple problems for Quaker Meetings. Instead of getting ahead of an issue before it explodes, Friends are so averse to face-to-face contact that they ignore it until it can't be ignored any longer. I've contrasted it with my feminist work, which can be confrontational to a fault. Between the two of these, I could never be accused of not having an original voice.

My other writing project is going to require another round of revision. I wrote the first draft over a year ago, and have made every change required of me. This particular submission is a short story about the life story of a transsexual, using bits and pieces of my own gender identity and transgender individuals who are friends and acquaintances. One of the readers is a generation older than me and is entirely unfamiliar with transgender concerns in any form. This presents a problem.

If I had stronger cache as an author, I could dig in my heels and insist that certain sections remain. As it stands now, I am going to need to prune a couple pages from the final draft. The good news is that I've been told that only modest revisions are needed, but I have to wait another six months for the next writing period. Every reader had positive comments to make this go round, but it's evident they want the final draft to be completely perfect before publication.    

The proliferation of free content benefits publications, not writers. Without sounding grumpy, I'm going to need to compromise my original voice and vision a little because I don't hold the cards. I am not opposed to revision in the least. Posts like these go through an intensive period of self-revision, and I've been known to make up to ten separate changes before anything goes live. Writing is a very subjective discipline, somewhat akin to a beauty pageant. I noticed the same issue earlier in life when I was a struggling musician competing in contests.

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