"kill your darlings" – well, mutilate them at least

Last night, at an absurdly late hour, I decided to rewrite the flash piece I completed recently. I had enough feedback to know what I needed to tackle, but it resulted in a massive rewrite of the story. It was slow work at the beginning as I changed the sequence and focus of the tale. I doubt a sentence remained untouched when I was done (the sky was lightening appreciably by the time I collapsed into bed).

I’m pleased with the results, and feel I’m close to a final version that’s tight and evocative. So far the feedback has been positive, with some ideas to consider.

I may work on it a bit more tonight or tomorrow, and fire it off to a market before I fly to London on Thursday morning.

When I’m writing I try to keep my narratives as open as possible. By that I mean that I like to give the readers plenty of room to bring their interpretation to the text, and I try to leave a certain level of ambiguity to the story. Personally, I don’t like stories that are tied off with a bow at the end (i.e. closed narratives). I want some sense of resolution, but I don’t mind some messiness or uncertainty, as long as I’m not cheated.

My biggest problem, that I’m tackling (hopefully), is getting the proper level of wiggle room for the reader without being too vague. At the moment I’m doing that by grounding the story in specific detail where possible, so I get the chance to incorporate a couple of wild cards into other areas. I have to address the readers’ desire to understand the events without spoonfeeding them into obesity.

It can be a tough balance to achieve (well, for me).

I usually start out with a narrative that’s so loose you could have a troupe of elephants doing somersaults inside it comfortably. After that I try to concretise the story, without loosing that touch of mystery I enjoy.

I was worried I’d broken the story last night because I had to take a lump hammer to it. It might sound odd, but it requires guts and determination for me to do this. It’s not easy to break apart something you spent time crafting into a particular shape in the first place.

Because you’re never sure if all the effort is going to be worth it. It could take the story in the wrong direction, and it could make it unworkable.

If you’re a writer you have to be ruthless. Beautiful porcelain dolls sometimes get their faces smashed up so they have disfigured, but more interesting, features. Teddy bears are shredded to add lumps to the stuffed panda with the missing eye. Barbie is decapitated so a GI Joe head can have a new body. It’s freakish Frankenstein stuff.

“Hmm, let’s see how my protagonist copes with an abusive childhood… or perhaps he has a car accident that leaves him permanently disabled… or maybe his family is wiped out in a bizarre accident…” I’m not normally contemplating happy endings for my fictional folk…

Each story has limitless possibilities, and the trick is not to be afraid to do whatever it takes (and as many rewrites as it needs) to create the monstrous offspring of which you can be proud.