This past holiday weekend was a very productive time for me, with regards to the short story I’m working on. While my wife and I relaxed, I found time to churn out almost 4,000 words, which is just past what I estimate to be the midway point in the story. I’ve established a few characters and set up the essential conflict. What remains is the last bits of rising action, climax and resolution. I may also need to go back to the earlier part and revise it a bit to add in some details that will be important during the climax of the story. It’s still a rough draft, but I’m fairly proud of what I’ve accomplished on it so far.
What I started with was little more than a clever idea, and the framework of a pretty good story tarnished by weak writing and a few basic storytelling failures. What I have now is a fairly strong set up for a pretty good story. It will still need a lot of revision, polishing and editing before it’s ready for me to submit to anybody for publication.
Once I’m done with this draft, I’ll probably have a few people read it over and see if they can tell me what the story’s weaknesses are. If I can identify its weaknesses, I can improve them and make them stronger. This part may be a challenge, for a few reasons. First will be finding willing readers. I know I’m not the only one with a busy life and little free time, and I know other people have demanding schedules as well. I anticipate, at this point, that the finished story will clock in at around 6 or 7 thousand words and while I hope that it makes for an enjoyable read, what I’ll be asking for is a little free work from friends. And that leads to the second challenge: those most likely to answer the call to help me by reading through my story will probably be friends, and friends often have a vested interest in providing positive feedback, and in my experience frequently do so even if subconsciously. I do know a few people who will be brutally honest in their assessments, and that can be helpful if I keep my skin thick enough.
I expect, when I’m through with this draft, that I’ll have a story that’s actually pretty good. If I’m right about that, what I need is neither overtly negative nor positive criticism. Instead, if my hypothesis is correct and the story is pretty good (although if my hypothesis is wrong, I realize that’s worth finding out, too), I’ll be wanting an assessment of where those specific weaknesses are that I can improve. I realize that’s a tall order, but I’m hopeful.
One thing many other writers do, as I understand it, is join Writers Groups. I’m not currently a member of any writers groups – time has been a limiting factor there, as well – but there can be a lot of value in them. The theory, as I understand it, is that these groups offer support to their members in the way of positive and supporting feedback, but coupled with the assumption that the kind of analysis I’m looking for will be a part of that feedback. Mixing the ‘bad’, so to speak, in with the good, positive feedback makes the bitter pill a little easier to swallow. Some day in the future, I may make a stronger effort to seek out writers groups in my area, if time allows. For you writers who may follow me now, for whom time already allows, I’ll offer that as my good advice of the day.
In the mean time, I’ll be progressing with my story. I’m realizing now that it’s unlikely this story will be completely written, reviewed, revised and edited in time to send off to a publisher by my somewhat arbitrary deadline: the start of the Spring Semester of class. That’s unfortunate, for if the writing process extends at all into the new semester that’s going to drag it out a long way. What I can do in a couple weeks during a break from classes will like take two or three times as long during the semester. Just the same, the progress I was able to make recently has given me a burst of enthusiasm for completing the project, even if it means I’ll miss that deadline just a little.
To all of you, I hope you had a wonderful Holiday season, and a Happy New Year, and may you have great reading and happy writing in the year to come.