rule #6: inspiration is what happens after i’ve done my homework

so, i’ve been rather sparse on the writing recently. i’m blaming the end of the semester workload and the arrival of spring (meaning i can play outside again, with power tools, no less), but last night i had a couple clear hours and managed a good bit of revision on the short story ‘Hunting & Trapping’.

in fact, as i sat with my cup of tea and the dog on the deck in the evening light, i thought i’d cracked the ending, which has been nagging at me. it’s been an okay ending, but something felt off, so i’ve been pecking away at it for about a week in 5 and 10 minute increments. well, with the devoted time last evening, i came up with what felt like the answer, so i rushed inside to type it up.

no sooner had i deleted the previous ending (because it was a genuine revision rather than a glorified edit), than the secondary character spoke up for the first time, adding a single sentence in place of my several (but not too many!) paragraphs. i honestly have no idea where the thought came from, or why, but there, typing out on the screen before consciously registering in my mind, was the real ending to the story. better yet, it inverted the entire story in a way i had not expected.

how does this happen? how can i write and write about these people, and think i’m doing justice to their characters and storyline, only to discover i’ve been barking up the wrong tree? i just don’t know. part of me wants to know, but more of me is thrilled with the mystery.

to that point, i feel certain i wouldn’t have reached this conclusion, had i not continued to work closely with these characters and push myself to figure out what was really going on and why (mostly the why, really). i tried probably three distinctly separate endings, with several other smaller variations on each, only to rule each out.

yes, this change did require some further adjustment of a couple other parts of the story, but each adjustment revealed a tighter, stronger passage.

in fact, i think this qualifies as my first new rule in several months.