To Err is Human…

Two days ago, I thought I was progressing along nicely, that I was learning and growing each day. Then Friday came, and I started writing on a story that I’d begun some time ago. The idea of this tale — an SF story centering on inter-species translation, and words and concepts that “just don’t translate” — really gripped me, and I started writing on it, despite the knowledge that I’d have to back off of it before it was done in order to finish some other loose threads.

As is my habit, I re-read a bit to center myself back in this world, on this protagonist’s skin. I frowned a bit, realizing I’ll need to edit this more than I’d thought, but I began pecking out words, adding to the story where I’d left off.

After an hour or so, I was more dissatisfied than when I’d begun. I re-read my pre-writing notes and guides, to see where I might be straying. To my disgust, everything I’d just written was off focus and will have to be cut! And plenty more besides that. The story is so off-track, I might be better off starting over. I might shelve it altogether, trying instead for a fresh start on a new story.

I cursed myself for ever thinking I could tell a story, that I had even the faintest idea of how a short story is structured. Well, that might be a bit of a stretch, but there came a moment’s clarity when I saw that I should study the structure of stories I enjoy. Not the dialogue, not the character or POV or any one of a hundred other things, but the beginning-middle-end part, and how each blends in with the others to make a pleasing whole — instead of the mess that I’m stuck with.

I’m not suggesting a first draft should be perfect, especially not the way I generally write. But a fuller understanding of story arc can only help in my early notes, and therefore the first draft might find more clarity, come closer to what I was meaning to say. At least I hope so!

And so it goes. From patting myself on the back, thinking I was figuring this “writing thing” out, to back to the books. My upcoming week’s work? Remedial study on the short story.

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About M.E. Garber

I'm an itinerant Ohio-born speculative fiction writer now living in north central Florida.
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