Every Story Has Its Seasons: Fall Clean-Up

Spring – seeds of your first ideas, images, characters, plotlines send up green shoots!

Summer – the story blossoms, flowers and weeds alike.

Fall…

Fall. I’m working on my earth pond, pulling out invasive weeds and dredging stinky sludge and algae. I check every scoop for frogs and salamanders so it’s slow work. And it’s hard work too. The huge pond rake becomes even heavier when dragged through water.

If I don’t do this, the inlet pipe gets clogged up and the pond becomes cloudy with silt and will eventually fill up and return to the mosquito-infested swamp it once was.

salamander in netEarly fall is a good time for a pond clean-up.The frogs and salamanders I disturb are able to swim away and dig themselves into the mud again. If I leave it till later, when it’s much colder, they can be very sluggish and I worry about whether they’ll survive.

Dredge too early, in the spring, and the frogspawn and young salamanders will be destroyed.

Just like with the earth pond, fall is the optimum time for cleaning up a story! This is the time when a story’s process, motivations, scenes, points of view have become overgrown or tangled up in other weedy storylines, or even died off and disappeared into the undergrowth. Continue reading

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Freedom and Structure in Revising a Story: Matt Bell’s Revision and Rewriting seminar at Grub Street

sculpture Monica (1985) by Jules Lasalle in Musée Plein Air de Lachine

Monica (1985) by Jules Lasalle
Musée Plein Air de Lachine

There I was, with a first draft I loved, a folder bursting with a massive amount of material I’d developed in search of what that first draft was truly about (none of which felt right), and absolutely no idea how to pull my story together or move it forward.

This was not a new experience for me. It always seems to happen with my favorite stories, the ones I feel really invested in, the ones I know have to be finished.

Unless my first draft is short and gives me a clear idea of where it’s going, my attempts to dig deeper into the story end up with me bushwacking my way through tangled undergrowth with no idea of whether I’m heading north, south, east or west. I have more than a few stories floating unfinished on my laptop’s hard drive (on my brain’s hard drive too). I’m not even talking about a novel here, just stories of maybe 2,500-5,000 words.

So – what next? Continue reading

Lost in Multiple Drafts of a Short Story

When I saw a TED video called “Try Something New For 30 Days” by Matt Cutts a few days ago, I knew  immediately it was the cue I needed to get back to re-writing and editing a story I’d really wanted to write but which I couldn’t finish.

I’m going to commit July to getting to getting to grips with that story (while not forgetting all those other July summery things like floating on water!).

which to choose?

which to choose?

I’ve written a mass of material – far too much for a short story. It has got too spread out and I have quite simply lost my way with it.

So the question is, how should I re-start? So many choices! But I need to find a new way to go about it. Continue reading

Published? You Deserve It!

I received a lovely email from a friend congratulating me on a publication. Great news, he wrote, you deserve it.

I deserved being published? Why? What had I done to deserve it? Continue reading

In the Eye of a Deadline!

IMG_3576In December I print up a one month/one page calendar for the upcoming year. Any time I see a call for submission from a literary journal that I think might be an especially good fit for a story I’m working on, or one that is ‘resting’ in a file, I enter it in the calendar.

I’m a slow writer. It takes me months and sometimes even years to finish a story. I know I’m not going to make most of these deadlines, so why do I bother to keep a record? Continue reading