Monday, December 14, 2009

That OCD Way

One Story always publishes an author interview to accompany its current issue. This is a nice thing to do. (SmokeLong Quarterly does it too.)

The latest issue features a story by Tamas Dobozy. I've never heard of Tamas Dobozy, and I haven't read his One Story story "The Restoration of the Villa Where
Tibor Kálmán Once Lived," but I enjoyed his interview, especially his answer to the question "What was the most challenging aspect of writing this story?":

"Probably doing the edits. I’m not someone who’s particularly interested in reworking a piece. Most of the time I just wish the editors would do it for me, take over, do what they want to the material (provided it’s not cheesy or misleading or clunky or anything), and publish it. As time goes by, my interest in writing is really confined to the initial discovery of the work, and after that I’m not really interested in it anymore. I used to be one of those writers who worried over every comma and article during the editing process, in that OCD way typical of beginning writers, thinking that it would somehow invalidate my sole authorship of the story, but I don’t really care about that anymore. Now I just think, 'Oh, do I really need to do all this work? If you want the story a different way, why don’t you just do it?' I really love the process of writing, and of course I like to see work published in a narcissistic way, if only to prove that the hours I spend typing do extend to someone other than myself, but more and more the only part of it that holds any meaning for me is the process of filling up the blank pages. Most editors I’ve run into are good enough at sorting out a story, though I’ve only once worked with an editor who I thought was a real genius at it."

I can see how this evolution -- from being manic about revising to not caring and essentially handing off a story -- can happen, but I don't think that's a path in my future. I'm too OCD when it comes to writing and revising. I'm like Dobozy used to be: stressing over commas and such. This kind of tinkering, though, can really bog you down. If you get too manic and obsessive, you won't ever let a story go and move on -- and this is a concern of mine.

Dobozy's answer to the question "What is the best advice about writing you have ever gotten?" is also worth checking out. (It has to do with rejection.)


Ravi Mangla said...

I was fascinated by that answer too. It made me question his commitment to writing. I've only read the first few pages of his story, but the writing is very tight and polished, so I don't know.

Though I can definitely see the problems with being too manic about small edits.

Andrew Roe said...

Hey Ravi -- yeah, I'm curious to read the story.

He also said something interesting about his writing process/strategy. He said he used to write a single-spaced page a day as fast as possible (he doesn't have a lot of time to write fiction because he teaches full time, has kids, etc.). He also said that he has since dropped the strategy because strategies only work for so long. Made me think I need an actual strategy just so I can later drop it...