So I finally finished the first draft of my first short story in a long, long time. Well, what I’m thinking of as a first draft. I’m not sure that’s what it actually is.
Once I set my novel aside until after the first of the year, the rest of the shorter piece came out in a big rush almost overwhelming in its intensity over the course of a couple days. I finished it on the 22nd of December and told myself that I’d let it sit a few days before I began tinkering with it.
I think my resolve lasted all of an hour or two.
The submission guidelines said a ceiling of 9K, with some latitude given if it’s an exceptional story. I was at about 10,813 words, but I knew I could trim at least 500 pretty easily without any major surgery on my part.
Of course, once I went back to the file for that innocuous trimming, I opened up Pandora’s box. That same evening I trimmed 500 words. The next morning I got rid of another 300 and got it down below 10K. I started cutting out little things here and there that didn’t really do anything. I also started thinking up better things to replace them.
I sent it to my betas when I thought I couldn’t cut more. As soon as I did that, plot holes suddenly made themselves known. I would fix some stuff…fix some more stuff…then send it out again and say NO, NO, DON’T READ THAT OLD ONE I SENT YOU — READ THIS ONE. And as soon as I did that, more plot holes would come into focus.
That went on for three days. When I finally sent the last one out on Christmas Day, I had about seven different versions floating around, and it wasn’t until the later ones that I sealed up some major plot holes. The process kept goading me, pushing me — which was a very good thing for me, but I think my poor betas could have done without all the flip-flopping.
I think it was the manageability of the editing process that did it. To have this 20-page thing that was a complete story unto itself, where all the problems were a lot easier to spot, was strange and rather cool, and when I pushed the same energy into it that I used in taking a couple weeks to rework some things in my novel, it had unpredictable results. I think I need to have several plates in the air, too. It was impossible to let it lie fallow a couple days when I didn’t have any other writing project to work on except the novel (which is still lying untouched with zero compulsion on my part to look at it at all).
Working on the short story definitely created a different kind of focus, that’s for sure. Whether it taught me anything remains to be seen.