By Keith Fisher
Have you ever seen, or perhaps been, one of those children who just had to take the new clock apart? Then having spread all the pieces out, you were fascinated to figure out what caused the tick?
When I was younger, I enjoyed taking things apart to fix them. I think my average was about 50/50. Sometimes the thing worked again, sometimes it didn’t. Often times I ended up with a few extra parts. I just chalked them up to redundancies.
As I get older, I find I need to document and catalog each piece or I’ll forget how they all fit together.
Recently, I entered a first chapter contest offered as part of the LDStorymakers’ conference. The genre was suspense and I had been working on a new book, a great book, a magnificent book, a book intended to grab your emotions and hold them to the last page. Surely, I thought, it would win. I edited, proofread, and edited again.
As an afterthought, I decided to enter a chapter from my first novel, the one I never submitted. I had been revising it as part of my writing exercises. What the heck, I thought, I’ll send it in. Did I tell you the other one was going to win anyway?
Imagine my shock when the chips fell, the great chapter, the magnificent chapter, the one that couldn’t lose? It didn’t even place. You guessed it. The afterthought, the writing exercise, the book I have ignored all these years took third.
As I mentioned before, I have several books in different stages but I’ve added this one to the rotation. It’s called The Award, and it should be ready for submission by Halloween. Like the clock, I have been taking it apart to see what makes it tick. I’ve been amazed at how badly I wrote back then, but I’m awestruck by the basic story and the way I told it.
When I take the chapters apart or rearrange them, I often find parts left over. Redundancies not needed to tell the story. I also found that it’s working. The characters are making changes and taking the story in new directions. I had to kill a character that took a prominent roll in the first version. She volunteered, and I saw she was right. She will be back in another story.
Just like the catalog I mentioned above, the original story is a framework. It’s better than a first draft, because I have invested so many years in it.
Perhaps you have an old story, something you never showed anyone. Perhaps it’s a new story that isn’t working. May I suggest you take it apart to see what makes it tick? If it doesn’t tick, find out why. Spread the parts out in a big circle, you’ll need a catalog in order to get the pieces back together. Don’t be afraid to throw out the redundancies. If the story works, you don’t need them.