"He sipped coffee and remembered beginnings." --Raymond Carver, from “The Augustine Notebooks”
Danny Goodman is a writer and editor living in New York City. His fiction and nonfiction have appeared or are forthcoming in various publications, and his novella, "Somehow There Was More Here," was published by Found Press. When not writing, he co-edits the literary journal fwriction : review. Above all else, he adores: his Girl Friday & editorial cat, sweets & sports, superheroes, and endless coffee. Currently at work on his first novel, he is badly in need of a nap.
If you are writing a horror story about two brothers living on Mars with a robotic chimpanzee, and realize early on that the story should really be a comedy set in a submarine with an ghost shark, it’s going to be much easier to fix at page 10 than page 100. If you get to the end, how likely is it that you will actually change Mars to the Atlantic and Dr. Weebles into Dark Tooth, the hammerhead poltergeist doomed to roam the sea until the mystery of his death is solved?
And those joke elements may be easier to fix than issues of structure or voice where you might literally need to rewrite every word. The most common roadblock to revising I see is a writer not wanting to throw away the things—voice, characters, setting, plot—that they’ve spent so long on even when they know it’s not working. It’s a form of the sunk cost fallacy. Human instinct is to make what you have work.
The Gordon Lish school of writing believes that your work should constantly pull from and build on the text already on the page. The elements on language in your very first line should resonate through the whole text. Even if you don’t take it to that extreme, good writing is an interconnected whole with the elements constantly playing off each other.
—Lincoln Michel, “Why You Should Edit As You Write,” in Electric Literature.
We give up on New York long, long before it ever gives up on us. There is no clean, triumphant return; there is only a feeling of displacement everywhere else that sends you creeping back the way that you came.
“She was of the stuff of which great men’s mothers are made. She was indispensable to high generation, hated at tea parties, feared in shops, and loved at crises.” —Thomas Hardy, Far from the Madding Crowd
“Wasn’t that, in the end, what he wanted? To discover how this place worked—not just its outward system of organization, but its inward, private one as well? Its secret machinations, the strings that gestured the puppet. Who was the puppet, though?” —Edan Lepucki, California