Monday, April 15, 2013

The "Aargh!" Catalyst

A few weeks ago a friend and I were talking about a short story manuscript I asked him to look over. The draft was flawed, which I already knew, I just wasn’t sure why or how to fix it. After we worked out both problems the conversation turned to my writing in general because I was frustrated that this story gave me so much trouble. The idea behind the story was good – none of my alphas disputed that – the execution was where it failed and to be frank, I’m better than that.

He told me that the problem wasn’t that I couldn’t write the damn story; my daily writing regimen and the manuscript in his hands were proof enough of that. Instead, my problem was that I needed to write the right story, damn it.

Once again, he was right.

This particular short story was a tricky one to tackle but I didn’t want to let that stop me from writing it. I like a challenge and while it wasn’t beyond my abilities, it was at the edge of them. Because this type of story was in territory I hadn’t ventured in before my bag of tricks didn’t work. I was also trying to finish it on a severely truncated timetable so I wouldn’t fall behind on the Cyberfunk. As a result the short story started at the wrong point, I took too long getting to the action, and worst of all I didn’t work from an outline (gasp!). All of this added up to one deeply flawed draft and one frustrated writer.

Do I regret plowing through? Sort of.

If I took more time with it I would have a better first draft, but I wouldn’t have learned as much either. Perhaps I’m thick headed but for me writing seems to be one of those things where I have to make the mistake first in order to 1) understand why it’s a mistake, and 2) learn how to avoid and/or remedy it. The frustration of the moment drives home the lesson and makes it much easier to remember. Hmm…maybe it’s not so much thick headedness but the power of the “Aargh!” that makes the difference. If that is the case, I hope I never stop having “Aargh!” moments because I never want to become complacent in my abilities. There is always room for improvement, always another genre to try. It’s one of the reasons why I love this business. It’s never boring.

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