Chief Guard Barnes
Back in February, I spoke of being seduced by the lure of the Short Story.
Part of the allure was the promise of improving my craft; to focus on creating punchy, powerful prose in an economical way.
I'd started writing draft three of BROTHERS, which I hoped would be the main, final rewrite, but felt I'd taken my writing as far as I could on my own. There was only one thing for it...
I had to join a writers group.
Being fairly introverted, this was a big deal for me. I'm a bit of a sadist, though: I'm not adverse to throwing myself into uncomfortable situations (is any writer?), and soon found myself in a room filled with lovely, talented writers, who weren't scary at all!
The first piece I read (out loud... gahhh) to the group was my story shortlisted in the Scottish Book Trust New Writers Award last year. My darling baby was torn, limb by limb, and I was told to put it back together using different pieces entirely. I took it all in, nodding and smiling, and drove home in a shocked wee daze.
Of course, they were absolutely right.
I'm not precious about my words in the slightest, nor am I overly sensitive to criticism. Their words were fresh in my mind as I frantically penned my next short story. The difference in the two pieces was astonishing; you'd have thought it was written by two different people.
The feedback for my next story was very positive, and I just knew I'd taken the right path for my writing journey. I joined the writers group to open my eyes. They're bloody well open now... like the Ludovico Treatment from A Clockwork Orange.
One week, a writer read out the synopsis of her novel. It made me pine for my own novel, waiting patiently while I gallivanted with the Short Story. I resolved to read the BROTHERS synopsis out soon.
I got stuck into synopsis research and discovered it was "best" to condense it to under 500 words. 500 words? Are you mental? But who am I to question, lowly amateur that I am?
That's the thing about being so receptive to learning the ropes... you'll take anything as gospel.
Last night, I hurled my 500 words at the group. It was all fine and well writing the thing: everything was so fresh in my head and transitioned smoothly from scene to scene. Not until I began to read it out loud did I realise I was bombarding them with names, events, disasters and even more names...
They asked me to bring the first five pages in next week, which I should've just done in the first place. It's a bit late in the game (at 50k-odd words) to look for validation to continue with my quest. The writer in me from two or three years ago would've sauntered in with the first five pages without asking permission to go on.
I miss that cocky bastard.
Anyway, time to polish my first five pages. How is everyone getting on? Give me your gossip!