May 2, 2017 at 7:48 pm

Moore: The Story Cure: How to Revise a Draft Without Going Crazy

Dinty W. Moore

Dinty W. Moore

Dinty W. Moore, Professor of English at Ohio University, penned an article in Signature about his new book, The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir.

The Story Cure book coverMoore teaches creative nonfiction at Ohio University and is the author of Dear Mister Essay Writer Guy: Advice and Confessions on Writing, Love, and Cannibals and other books. Winner of the Grub Street Nonfiction Book Prize, he has published in The Southern Review, The Georgia Review, Harper’s, and The New York Times Sunday Magazine, among numerous others. He also edits Brevity, an online journal of flash nonfiction.

He writes about the book in a Signature article titled “The Story Cure: How to Revise a Draft Without Going Crazy.”

Working one-on-one with first-time memoirists and novelists at various summer writing workshops over the past many years, I often find myself needing to deliver the hard news. Perhaps the most difficult lesson I have to pass along is this: Once you are done writing your book, you aren’t really done writing your book.

When I say this, foreheads inevitably furrow. Faces fall.

Being reminded of just how much effort is required even after you’ve put a period on the final sentence of the final chapter of a multi-year project can be deeply discouraging.

Because yes, revision does take effort and time.
It needn’t, however, be painful.

The blank page is a frightening void. An early draft, however, filled with words – all pointing in the right direction, but in need of some tender loving care – can be exhilarating. Words are like clay: you can push them around and make all manner of shapes with them. And clay reminds us of childhood. And childhood reminds us of the time when we were the most playful, most creative, and least haunted by voices telling us we can’t do things well enough.

In other words, you can approach revision with your head low and your shoulders tensed, thinking, “Boy my sentences are so sloppy and wordy, and everything seems slow. All in all, I’m a pathetic failure.”

Or you can approach revision thinking, “Hey, here’s my chance to get it right. Let’s play around.”

Too many areas of life don’t afford you a second chance, but writing does, and you should see that as a good thing. So, here’s my advice:

Read the rest of his column at Signature.

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