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Writing Lessons

on May 16th, 2010 by Shannon

This is a post that will appeal to no one except the writers in the group. In other words, no one. But if that intrigues you,  read on.

I’m working on a short story. I’m calling it a cross between Northern Exposure and Nero Wolfe. Which sets some impossibly high standards, but I’ve always been ignorant of a challenge.

Anyhoo, in the course of writing, I had one of those ‘Aha!’ moments that I had to share. I hate writing short stories! Okay, that wasn’t exactly the Aha! I was referring to. In fact, I already knew I hated writing short stories. The rough draft of this one has been moldering in my writing file for over a year. I finally aired it out only because of the looming deadline for the Writer’s Digest short story competition, which has a genre category.

I hated this before I finished the first draft. You couldn’t really even call it a story. I guess you could call it writing, in the sense that I had strung some words together into sentences, and some of those sentences were structured into paragraphs. I stress the word some. But on the whole, it sucked. If not for a little voice inside me that told me to pick this one, it would still suck.

But desperation is the mother of inspiration. And that’s when I remembered that even though I hate writing short stories, I love re-writing short stories!

Aha!

Once I found the thread at the heart of the story and yanked on it, everything fell into place.  All those half-baked ideas that I’d started and never finished, all those hints at characterization that never panned out, suddenly I knew where they all fit. I was cutting and pasting like a mad woman, and when it was all done, I’d written a story! One that didn’t suck!

It was like that scene in The Goonies, when they’re in the cave and Mikey finds that wire on the floor, and he picks it up and suddenly it sets all that stuff in motion? Things fall from the ceiling, rocks start rolling, bats fly out of the tunnel. (FYI – in this metaphor, the rocks are a good thing and the bats are my words flowing from my well of inspiration.)

So, the question is, what did I learn from all this?

1. I am no Rex Stout, but if I allow myself, I can write short stories. The first draft will suck, but I have the ability to make it better.
2. Moldering is my favorite word in this post.
3. Lots of things can be the mother of other things. Necessity and invention, Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher. You get the idea.
4. Classic ’80′s movies are relevant to every facet of life.

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