Sunday, February 20, 2011

Mining for Gold, and coming up with Silver

“It’s off to work we go”, and another draft we write. Writers want that epic, world-changing work. Poets put their souls into prose, and sometimes it’s less than a paragraph long. Novelists and short story writers create fantastic worlds and address challenging subjects in a complex weave. But, how long does it take to create that mind-blowing, world-peace conquering story? And, on a deeper note, when is it okay to let it go and be happy with what your wrote? This post seeks to answer such questions.

All writers want their stories to shine. It’s tempting to keep polishing it, but just like a jewel, every time you handle it, you risk tarnish. Thus, I’m going to assume that you have a story, so let’s not judge its merit piecewise.

Here’s one reason you know you should at least give up that story for awhile: when you’ve written your tenth major revision. I’m serious, it really is a problem. I’ve done three major revisions of a story, and then took a couple of months away. The fourth turned out (so far) to be so much better. So, take some time away because you might end up killing yourself or the story. At the very least your friends might get tired of reading it. (Jason

: Is that a hint, Kyle?)

At what point are you actually damaging your shining jewel? When does the endless cutting and polishing turn into an exercise in OCD? I know I’ve struggled with that, but in the end, a good story is a good story. It’s something people can enjoy. That’s what it’s all about: enjoyment. And there’s nothing wrong with that. There are fewer great stories than good, and far more bad stories than good ones. If someone tells me my story is good, I’m happy. I’m still going to ask them in depth questions, but at the very least, they’ll tell me it wasn’t a waste for them to read it. This is where the silver part comes in.

Remember, silver is valuable, too. It certainly beats bronze, and the finish usually lasts longer.


Post Script: If you’re lucky, some of those silver ideas will prod you into new gold ones. Never give up, never surrender. And never be ashamed of good writing.

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