Quick & not so easy

February 9, 2007 at 7:12 pm (The Final Quarter, Writing)

In a rejection letter a few months back, the editor commended me for the amount of “polish” in my work. I replied that comes from my years as a journalist/editor.

Lately, that comment has gotten me thinking about the way that I write. You don’t always have a lot of time for rewriting in the journalism world. I’ve developed a habit of constantly revising as I go, trying to pick the best words and phrases now because I may not be able to redo it later.

That doesn’t mean I don’t edit. In my creative writing over the last year, I’ve done quite a bit of it. It’s just that my style of writing usually means I don’t have to do much heavy rewriting.

That being said, I have to admit that I tend to be a little long winded. What I wind up with is some well-written, completely unnecessary backstory or little side details that wind up on the cutting room floor. My submission to Courting Morpheus was like that. I had a scene in a convenience store that I realized had no place in the story. That’s about 500 words gone.

With all that in mind, I decided to try my hand at really short fiction today. I wrote two stories totalling 110 words for 55 Words. One’s a dark piece following the old adage “You always hurt the ones you love.” The other is a quirky bit about a boyfriend’s consternation when his girlfriend encounters a unicorn.

Acceptance or rejection, I would invite every writer to try their hand at flash and micro fiction. It’s much harder than it seems and a very good exercise in word economy.

And thank you, Ian Rogers, for the post on your Web site about this particular online publication.

Speaking of writing, here’s the progress so far on the novel:

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1 Comment

  1. Ian said,

    My pleasure, Jeff. It’s a great little website with some great little stories. I was turned onto it by another writer who mentioned it in passing on my website. God bless the internet!

    I totally understand what you mean about both polishing a story and trying to avoid the long-winded parts. I’m at the stage in my career where the rejections I get are almost always personal notes that say, in a nutshell, “nice writing, but not for us.” I’ve never gotten one that says, “Practice your chops” or “Maybe you should try law school.” I don’t have a journalism background like yourself, although I used to write book and film reviews for Rue Morgue. I’ve just been practicing for a lot of years.

    Despite that, I still have a tendency to slow down the pace of a story by adding in too much detail. I think ti’s because I’m trying to get a certain point across, and like most writers working on their first draft, I tend to over-explain things. I have to take two steps back and realize that I only need to mention the major points and let the reader come up with the rest. Include too much detail and you break that telepathic link to the reader (who needs to create some of the deets on his/her own), and you slow down the story.

    Although I haven’t licked this particular problem yet, I am aware of it, and can spot those trouble areas and fix them in the re-write. I guess that’s progress of some sort.

    Best of luck at 55 Words. Let me know how it turns out.

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