What I Learned From “Revising One Sentence”

Lydia Davis’ Revising One Sentence helped me understand the writing process a little. I consider myself a beginner writer so I don’t have much that I do to prepare myself so Revising One Sentence has helped me figure that out for myself. Her process doesn’t start with some elaborate set up or anything, it just begins on a day where she feels happy and decides to write about it in her journal. The first things she considers is whether she will use first or third person, if it matters that she is doing the action then it will be in first person but if it only matters that the action is being done then she will use third person so that she doesn’t get in the way of the story. I can fully understand this because it’s so easy to let personal or real things creep their way into a fictional story. When I find myself writing fiction, which sadly isn’t often, it is almost always that something I have seen or experienced makes their way into the story somehow. This may be because I, like Davis, write myself into the story and it’s hard to separate a fictional character with your name from your actual experiences.

Davis talks about her notebook that she writes in and how she uses it for every piece of work, regardless of its quality. Her explanation of how notebooks or journals are for all of your thoughts instead of the more formed and final ones made me realize that even writers have thoughts that don’t lead anywhere and stories that don’t amount to anything. It’s just part of the process that every writer experiences and shouldn’t scare me away from trying to write. Davis also said that she writes anything she wants to but never publishes anything that is morally wrong. This made me think about movies like We Need to Talk About Kevin, where a woman’s teenage son commits a mass murder at his high school. This type of movie can seen as “morally wrong” because actual mass shooting survivors may feel that their trauma is being used for personal gain or amusement. Writing about traumatic fictional events may not resonate with that audience as much as we’d like to think. It could come off as distasteful or ignorant and should probably be the story that you keep in your notebook instead of publishing.

Something else Davis discussed was her habits that make her unafraid to write. One if these was starting her stories in her notebook so there’s no pressure to finish it. As I begin to write more, I am realizing that not everything written has to be good or sensical. Whether it be in a notebook or in Google Docs, writing without quality at the forefront of my mind each time can help me find my writing process and figure out what works best for me. Another habit Davis has is to begin a new story right in the middle of writing another because it’s harder to write a new story when you plan to. I find this to be the case with my writing as well. When I know that I need to write a story I get more writer’s block than ever. I haven’t tried beginning a new story before finishing the first but after reading this I will. I’m always looking for new ways to improve my writing because I know I don’t put as much effort into it compared to other things.

A few classes ago, we read an essay about the importance of setting in a story by Laurie Ann Doyle. She expresses her need for setting to be as detailed as possible and how this outshines the need for more detail in the plot. Lydia Davis also talked about how she would pay more attention to setting when she felt that all her stories be longer ones. At a point in time I felt like all the writings I did had to be long but I think this was to make up for the quality of the writing because I knew I wasn’t any good. This made me wonder, is setting or plot more important? I can see arguments for both, but I’d have to argue that the plot is more important. You can have the most fitting setting, but if the story lacks then the entire story will. The plot gives the story density so I’d have to argue the plot is more important.

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