26 Jun 2008

Long story short

Some important writing lessons I had to relearn this week while working on the first draft of In the Cage of Ghosts:

1) Too much detail suffocates an otherwise good story.
2) Consider what it is you want to say in the confines of the story’s 3-4k words and factor that into the style in which you choose to write.

Seems obvious now. But maybe it took writing 3.5k words of Cage for me to see its flaws, fundamental though they may seem. It became painfully obvious that in spite of all the planning and notes I had made a fatal error when it came to plot arc and time scale. The story as originally planned took place in one location over a few hours. Characters had to move (emotionally) from point A to point B. The story depended on that shift. But reading it back in first draft I didn’t buy it. And if I didn’t, what hope readers would?

Thankfully, the problem was obvious: overwriting and lack of focus on story and brevity. I simply ran out of room. In order for it to work as is, Cage would need to bloat into something approaching novella length. But the story won’t support that. So, what’s the solution?

Bite-size chunks. Instead of one or two drawn-out scenes, I’m opting for a half-dozen or more ruthlessly short scenes, with the story as a whole taking place over a longer time period of several days.

Long story short, I’m starting over.

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