“The key is to rethink revision’s relationship with your practice. When you stop thinking that revision owes you something—a final draft, a sense of completion, a publication—and start thinking about it as a series of opportunities and invitations, you’ll realize just how powerful it is.” -Adam Soto
Adam Soto is web editor for American Short Fiction and the author of This Weightless World, a novel. His collection of ghost stories, Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep, is forthcoming from Astra House in fall 2022. He holds an MFA from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop and currently lives in Austin, Texas.
On Saturday, May 21st, Adam Soto is teaching a class for the WLT called “On Novel Revision: Finding What Works Best for You and Your Novel.“ In this class you’ll learn to strengthen your revision practices and better tailor your revision approach to your goals.
Here’s what Adam had to share with us:
Scribe: Tell us a little bit about yourself. What do you write? How did you come to writing?
Adam Soto: Hi! I’m Adam Soto. I’m a writer/ editor/ educator living and working in Austin, TX. My first novel, This Weightless World, came out last November and is a finalist for Locus Magazine’s Best Debut Novel Award. My second book, a collection of ghost stories entitled Concerning Those Who Have Fallen Asleep, drops September 27th. I’m invested in interrogating the territory between social realism and genre fiction, with particular interest in post-human perspectives, ecofiction, and surrealism. I’ve identified as a writer all my life and had the good fortune to study the craft in college and graduate school.
Scribe: In your own work, how do you approach overcoming the challenges that come with writing, be it writer’s block or craft or business-related challenges?
AS: I’m obsessed with revision—it’s my favorite part of the writing process—and I find that it offers a remedy to nearly every obstacle a writer might face, except the business-related challenges. The key is to rethink revision’s relationship with your practice. When you stop thinking that revision owes you something—a final draft, a sense of completion, a publication—and start thinking about it as a series of opportunities and invitations, you’ll realize just how powerful it is. The writer Alexander Chee says that running out of plot (the most typical form of writer’s block) is usually a POV problem. Switching POV is a revision technique, but employing it in the middle of a draft can offer new ways of considering problems you’ve already established and new directions for complicating them, thus generating plot. For the business stuff, I rely on others. The beautiful people in the Austin writing community (including the folks at the Writers’ League of Texas) are filled with helpful advice and have saved me a lot of grief. I gather lots of opinions and do plenty of research before making business decisions because there isn’t a lot of room for revision there.
Scribe: Has there been a moment of epiphany in terms of your work, when you thought, “This is it! Now I know what I’m doing?” How long did that feeling last?
AS: I have had so many epiphanies over the years—they matter forever but not one has ever been a “this fixes everything” sort of realization. Often, the epiphany is quite mechanical and straight-forward. Like using pronouns as quickly and as frequently as possible, or resisting backstory. You do this simple thing or abandon a tendency and all of sudden the writing starts to work. So, maybe that’s the biggest epiphany: trusting in the little things.
Scribe: What piece of advice do you find yourself giving to writers again and again?
AS: Making it perfect isn’t the point. Craft books, craft talks are about presenting you with ALL the things you can consider, but that doesn’t mean you’re supposed to take every story element into account when appraising your own work. A story can be “perfect” in a craft sense and still not have a single distinguishing feature, which basically means the story has no identity. Sometimes, a story’s weakness can provide that very feature.
Scribe: What is one thing that people will take away from this class?
AS: Permission to view their own work in the most interesting light, to get to know it in new ways, and to rebuild it in ways they’d never have imagined.
Click here to learn more about Adam Soto’s upcoming class.