By Lillian Csernica on May 30, 2015
Today I read over a story I wrote fifteen years ago. At the time I thought it was pretty good. Not Pushcart material, but the basic premise was entertaining. The antagonist was based on somebody I knew in real life, one of the stranger people I’ve met in my wanderings. I chose a setting quite familiar to me, a particular type of restaurant where I liked to go often. I made up a protagonist that seemed to be well-orchestrated in comparison to the antagonist.
The story has been rejected several times.
That’s the question I kept asking myself. I trimmed the backstory. I juiced up the fantasy elements. I refined the protagonist. Still didn’t help much.
So today, fifteen years later, I read the story and understood it had some good elements, but it was not fully developed. In fact, it was time to toss out that version and start from scratch.
That hurts. It’s not fun admitting you created something that isn’t very good. That’s one edge of the sword called Perspective.
The other edge is sharper, honed on the whetstone of my keyboard and my notebooks. I’ve done a lot of writing in the fifteen years since I wrote that story. I’ve sold a novel and quite a few short stories. I can’t fix what’s wrong with the original version of that particular story, but I can salvage the ideas that made it worth writing and remake them into better, stronger material.
Beginning writers are often reluctant to let go of part or all of something they’ve written. They’re sometimes afraid that they won’t be able to think up something else. Once you learn that there will always be more words, you’re free. Yes, it’s hard. Yes, some days the words hide and it feels like squeezing the last drop of blood from solid rock. Believe me, I’ve had those days and they’re hellish.
There are more words. More outside, in print and digital forms. More inside, in the imagination.
If all you can do is take pen in hand and scribble in a cheap composition notebook, whining and crying and complaining about how you can’t get the words right, well guess what? You’re still writing. And that’s OK.
Andy Couturier, world class writing instructor, taught me this motto: “Keep the pen moving.”
It doesn’t matter if it’s a pen or a pencil or a crayon or your hands on the keyboard or a tape recorder or Dragonspeak. It doesn’t matter, as long as you keep the pen moving and keep more words appearing on the page.
Another wise person once said, “You have to write something, before you can write something good.”