‘Writing is editing’

14 Jun

Writing is a process of trial and error, of drafting and re-drafting and of banging your head against a wall until the right words fall into the right places. Though the wall can be metaphorical, I’ve been using a literal wall this past week. And what I’ve discovered in my head-bashing was that my idea just won’t work for Say Sum Thin 9 and I’ll tell you why: it’s not a poem.

Over the past few years I’ve come to grips with how I should treat my ideas and how they would best be written. Hell, the editing for me doesn’t begin after the writing is done, it begins with the idea itself. ‘Writing is editing’ after all, as papa Hemingway once said. In short, if my idea is image-based then it will work wonders as a poem, but if my idea is character-based it will work better as a story. Granted, elements of a narrative often worm their way into my poetry, but this is more the exception than the norm. However, poetic features such as repetition, assonance and metaphor feature prominently in my fiction. I feel fiction cannot exist without poetry, but poetry can exist without fiction. This can make it difficult to differentiate where an idea would best be written as fiction or best as poetry.

I’ve had this confusion with my recent idea for SST9. We got talking about it in the office the other week and Anne was asking me loads of questions to do with who the bloke in my idea was and why he was fishing and what grinded his gears and his age, his family, his profession, what he likes for tea, what he thinks of the carnival clearing up behind him. These were all great questions that prompted me to consider my character closely. And when push comes to shove, this bloke is impossible to write about in poetry, especially if I were to perform it in character. I like to play with language and I’ll tell you what, this guy would not be caught dead playing about with language or talking about feelings or what he can see about him or anything like that. What’s going off with him would all be in the subtext, and to write subtext I need to write in fiction.

Got to admit I’m a little disappointed in this revelation regarding my idea, but sometimes that’s the way she goes. Yeah I can’t dress as a fisherman now, yeah I can’t pretend to catch goldfish after frigging goldfish and not that ever-elusive carp, but at least I not be writing a poem that should be a story.

I wonder if any of you guys have had similar experiences with your writing in the past. If you have, I’d love to hear about it in the comments and we could have a right old natter about it! And if any of you are planning on coming to Five Leaves for the Noumena book launch on Wednesday at 7pm, we could chat there over a glass of wine, or several!

Keep an eye on this space over the next few days for a catch-up on what all of Mouthy have been up to over the past couple of weeks and where we’re going in the coming weeks. Until then, ta-rah miducks!



2 Responses to “‘Writing is editing’”

  1. mattylewis92 June 14, 2015 at 2:14 pm #

    To be honest, when I saw a blog post that started ‘writing is’ my heart sank a little bit. But this is spot on. I’ve definitely had similar experiences and admire the courage you have to acknowledge this realisation and act on it. What you’ve said here completely makes sense. I agree to with the idea of fiction incorporating poetry – they’re not incompatible things. But yeah, enjoyed this, thank you


  2. Anne June 15, 2015 at 4:47 pm #

    I think your piece could be a poem, it’s just a case of finding the angle. I agree your idea would make a great piece of prose too. As to working on a piece to perform, you could write a monologue and perform that – just look at Cleo’s piece she did for the tour.
    Or, why not write it in third person and then the character of the poem is the narrator?
    Or do a persona poem, where an inanimate object is the character, or a metamorphosis poem where the man becomes a goldfish or a stool or a tree?
    Just love the idea of fishing for abandoned goldfish – there’s some kind of metaphor for life in there somewhere.

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