exercising different writing muscles

I wrote a poem today.

The opening line came from a dream several days ago. At the time I jotted it down, and scribbled some notes, which gave me the basic structure. I didn’t want to wait too long to write it, so I tackled it this evening.

I don’t work as long at poems as I do at short stories. The idea materialises, and once I begin to sculpt it the form usually manifests the final shape quickly.

Not that I knock them out in minutes. It can takes hours. But it’s rare that it takes days.

I don’t mess with poems once they’re completed. Perhaps I’ll tinker with a word here, or there. If they work, that’s great, but if they fail, they fail.

Short stories can be endlessly moulded, and their forms re-designed. But for me, once a poem hardens it is impossible to change.

Case in point: I re-worked my short story, again, this week and sent it out to a new market. Each time I re-write it I think–perhaps foolishly–it gets better. It’s now 2,000 words shorter than its first incarnation, a long time ago. I keep trying to get as close as possible to the essence of the story without losing too much of the detail I like so much about the characters, and the plot. There is a danger of paring it down so much that it becomes cardboard.

What I want is economy of language, as well as complex characters and layers of texture and meaning in a tightly-constructed plot.

I don’t always hit the mark, but I’m getting closer to the bullseye.