Wednesday, March 06, 2013

On Rewriting

Writers who make a living from their novels and stories must, I imagine, work much faster than me. I can crank out a polished press release in minutes, keynote speeches in a couple of hours (or faster, when circumstances demand), op-ed pieces in a day and policy documents in less than a week, depending on length. So far, my employers and clients have been very happy with my work, so I must be doing something right.

But fiction, oy, that remains a tough nut to crack. I've been working, on and off, on a short story for the last several months. After about a dozen rewrites, I'm finally happy with, oh, about the first third of the story. But after that, despite my best efforts, I continue to break the "show, don't tell" rule of storytelling in a half-dozen different ways, and I haven't yet figured out an innovative way of fixing the problem. I've considered flashbacks, I've considered starting the story at a different point, I've considered paring away all the extra exposition. So far, nothing works.

Logically, I should gut the whole thing, keep the opening scene, and see if I can move the story in a more fruitful direction. But I love the last line, too. It's the meat in the middle of the story that's messing everything up.

According to conventional wisdom, it takes 10,000 hours to become an expert in whichever field you pursue. I've racked up my 10,000 hours and more when it comes to non-fiction, but I feel like I still have 9,000 to go when it comes to short stories, let alone novels. At this rate, I'll be ready for publishing in...huh, look at that, 9,000 hours is only about one year. That's assuming I don't eat, sleep or do anything but write short stories. I'd better get back to it...

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