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Drastic Measures: One Way to Re-Write

So, I have this story. It’s called, “The Silence of God is Impossible to Bear”. This was a story that I wrote several years ago, and it was part of my application package to the Queens MFA program. I re-worked the story twice before I sent it in to the Queens staff, and it was–obviously–strong enough to help me make the cut.

It still needed work.

I did two more editing passes and took the story with me as my large group workshop submission for my first on-campus residency. There were a lot of good comments, and some constructive ideas for improvement.

It still needed work.

Late last year, I did another editing pass. I incorporated some of the suggestions, shortened some parts, lengthened some others. Put it back in “the drawer”.

I pulled it out last Wednesday, thinking about making it my April small workshop group submission, gave it a read.

It still needed work.

This is a story I really like. I think it has some really nice elements, and has the potential to be one of “those” stories. It has a resonance that people identify with. They ask about the story: “You ever finish the one about the couple…”

This is a story I really hate. It frustrates me to no end. Every time I think I’m “there”, I re-read it and I wonder what in the world I ever saw in it. It is clunky and poorly executed and static.

After I’ve put the story away for a while, and when I first pull it back out, I have that “love” feeling, but after two or three passes, wrestling with the words and ideas, pushing phrases around, pulling the characters this way and that, I hit a wall. It all sounds like drivel. All the beautiful things I thought were there are covered, hidden, masked by crap writing.

So last week, when I hit that wall, yet again, I did something radical. Drastic. Foolish, even.

I started over, pen in hand, fresh notebook open: word one, paragraph one, page one. I’ve sliced and diced this story the last few days. I’ve literally re-written the story, allowing things to just go wherever they need to go. I’ve re-arranged the puzzle pieces, added some important connecting elements, made the characters more dynamic. I’m probably farther away from the “end” of this story than I’ve ever been, but it feels really good. I think the story will be better for all the fuss.

It still needs work.


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