enough with the soapbox
sorry about that. should’ve just kept it to the summary.
anyway, back to the writing.
the last couple weeks, i’ve been revising a short story i wrote nearly ten years ago. unfortunately, i’ve not been doing terribly much with it on a daily basis. i’ve been sticking to my five minutes a day, but that’s not really enough. i could blame it on the extra hours at one of my other jobs, and i was for a while, but i realized today that’s not true.
the fact is, the story needs to be re-written, not revised. i still love the core of it, and think it actually has some rather large potential, going forward, but after i stop patting myself on the back for that, and start picking what i actually wrote apart, i can’t hide from the numerous bits of ugliness shambling and trudging about in it. from multiple paragraph monologues to cliched stereotypes to spelling errors*, i’d give myself a D+/C- on the execution, tops.
this was, obviously, not fun to realize.
however, before it got to me, i started thinking about something paolo bacigalupi** mentioned during the panel discussion back at readercon 2008. he described part of his revision process, where he would take each sentence and ask himself how he could make it better, not just in terms of flow or style, but in terms of story. how could he make his story that much more powerful than the next person’s? he constantly challenges himself to push his writing to places he hasn’t gone before.
this came to me as i was forcing myself through a slogging, painfully embarrassing run on the treadmill***, and that’s when i found myself pushing the story into a much better space. yes, it still needs to be almost completely re-written, but the new direction and new dynamic wipe away the frustration or self-pity i was heading for.
* which are simply the most embarrasing of all the issues.
** i’m pretty certain it was him, anyway. if not, then i apologize to the whichever of the other panelists it was who did say it. if, in fact, it was none of them (unlikely), then i take full credit for the insight.
*** 2 things: 1) at least i was doing it, and 2) yet again the ringing endorsement for the clarifying power of physical exercise.