Last night, I got my short story back from my workshop class. What I set out to do (tell a story about the powerlessness a person feels living with an addict) I didn’t do…at all.
There are many reasons for this. The first being, when I don’t want to write about something, I tend to dance around it. I figure the reader will be so mesmerized by my hypnotic booty popping, the reader will miss the fact I’m avoiding something.
When will I learn this never works? Readers can smell when a writer is being fake. Yet, I still try to pull the old wool over a reader’s eye. The workshop knew I was lying and called me on it.
The second reason my story doesn’t work is because I’m using the wrong characters to tell the story.
I have to really sit down and have a heart to heart with my character Ethan. I wrote a novel for him, but he wasn’t real pleased with it. I rewrote the first chapter trying to make him happier. But nope, that didn’t work. While I am moving closer to the direction I think he wants the story to go in, I am still off the mark.
The last reason this revision doesn’t work is because I am forcing a story into a genre it doesn’t belong in. I have this great idea, which I thought could be a short story cycle. It may have worked as a novel. But I wasn’t completely sold on the idea of using either genre. Something still was off.
Then came the suggestion to make the collection twelve pieces of flash fiction. To be honest, this intrigued me for two reasons. One, I think the impressions I want the reader to feel will come across better in flash because of the restraints of the genre. Second, I never worked in flash fiction before and I love a challenge.
A writer knows when something isn’t working. If during the writing process things don’t feel right, it means they aren’t right. There are so many options a writer has to tell a story, a writer should not limit him or her self.
Revision is the place you can really look at the words on the page. Forget about the vision you have for the piece. Forget what you told yourself you wanted to accomplish with the piece. Look at the words on the page as if those words no longer belong to you. What does the story on the page say? If it isn’t what you wanted, you have to start looking at why the piece failed. Do you force the piece into a genre it isn’t suited for? Are these characters telling the right story? If you answered “yes” to either question, you have some serious revisions to make.