Thursday, April 5, 2012

Starting Anew

Remember this post about the long story I was writing?
Well to keep you up-to-date, I finished it at just under twenty thousand words.
Remember this post about the nice things people said about my short story?
Well to bring you up-to-speed, I went through that same workshop process for the almost twenty thousand word story.

Which meant a lot more of these.

It's hard to explain exactly what I mean, but I guess the best way to say it is that the problems that people had with it this time had more to do with the fundamentals of the story itself. The issues people had with the story, even if they liked it overall, weren't the kind of issues that could be solved with an addition or deletion of a sentence or two like they were in my short story.The response, while still a good mix of positive and negative opinions, had a very different tone to it.
As this became clear to me while listening to the students in my class discuss their opinions of the story, I didn't hesitate to decide that the best solution would be to rewrite the entire story from the beginning. So while the classroom was still telling me what they liked or thought could fix the draft of the story in front of them, I was already planning out a brand new version of the story in my head. In the span of a week I went through several ideas that would drastically affect the original concept for the story.

Seasons just seemed like a cool motif. (source of photo)

Let me explain what I mean about the concept:
The story was to cycle through various different character's perspectives, one at a time, from a third-person perspective. The story was separated into five different parts/chapters, each of which took place in the season following that of the chapter before (winter, spring, summer, fall, winter), but the story did not span a single year, instead it spanned fourteen years (originally over sixty years). The distance in time between the chapters was to increase somewhat exponentially. I also wanted to emphasize certain aspects of a lifetime, such as that you don't bring all of your friends along with you through your entire life, which meant that several characters key to the first chapter or two were completely missing in the third, fourth, and fifth chapters.

What on Earth was I thinking?
I was so wrapped up in what I thought was the "poetic" structure of the story, that I didn't focus on the characters or the story itself. The result was that the writing was boring and the characters were mostly unlikable. I quickly began brainstorming remedies, including changing the perspective of the story, forgoing the seasonal chapter format and starting the story years before the original beginning, and, of course, figuring out ways to make the characters likable.
"This time I'll try not to waste dozens of
hours screwing up." (source of photo)

I went from breaking my personal word count record by several thousand, to scrapping it all and starting over at zero. And honestly it doesn't bother me at all. For one thing I've completely scrapped then rewrote an entire story before, so this isn't the first time, and for another thing I know it's for the best and that the new direction in which I'm going feels much better than the original concept. There were a few moments that I considered the story to be a lost cause that I should forget about and put behind me, but then I reminded myself how important this particular story is to me. Not just that it's my first full-length story, but that it's something unlike anything I've written before, and I feel some sort of attachment to the characters and plot that I can't just walk away from. This is a story that means something to me.

I'm debating making the process of rewriting this story more public, as in I would reference specific parts of the story directly in the blog to give you a better idea of what I'm talking about, since I imagine it's hard to follow me at times when you know nothing about the story. I could even do some side-by-side comparisons of the original and new version.

By the way:


  • I uploaded a new comic strip of "Stupid Phrases" called "What's Up?" to the Humor tab.
  • I uploaded a new poem called "Bad Advice" to the Poems tab.
Now, if only I had a good quality story to upload...

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