My days are filled with writing, gardening, the occasional conversation with a customer service representative or member of law enforcement (long story), and cleaning up after my cats, who are so excited to have me home all day that they can’t help making messes. I watch movies, I listen to music, I type until my hands cramp and my eyes blur.
And I drink coffee. Lots of coffee. Which may not be a bad thing, as this study from a team of German researchers claims. Some much-needed good news.
It’s been a while since I mentioned the book I’m writing. Back in February, I posted on Twitter that it was finished:
— Roy Claflin (@RoyClaflin) February 27, 2018
…and at the time, it was true. Then I got an idea.
A brilliant, terrible idea.
I saw quite clearly that there was a way to make this book, which I thought was pretty good, into something fucking great. There were opportunities I’d missed, scenes I could change, characters I could invent. The plot could be tightened with just a few tweaks, though I knew those tweaks would ultimately mean changing the entire book. It was an exciting prospect.
Then came the despair. I thought I was done. I thought it was good. Goddamn it all.
My plan requires most of the novel to be re-written, so I’ve taken the whole thing back to rough-draft status. There will be characters and scenes and settings that will be discarded. Some of my best and most clever lines of dialogue will be deleted, to be replaced by other, similarly-clever lines of dialogue. Anything I keep (and it won’t be much) will need to be altered to fit the new themes and storylines. Basically, I’m writing a new novel from scratch.
Why am I doing this? Because the ideas I came up with to improve this story are just too good to ignore. They’re so different from the ideas I had while writing the many drafts of the novel. I wondered where those idea were hiding all this time; in what corner of my brain had they been growing?
I mentioned on Twitter that I’d also been writing short stories. I actually wrote three short stories since “finishing” the novel. I believe those stories are the best things I’ve ever written, and by a wide margin. Reading them, I feel like I may have finally found my voice, and I really hope to be able to share them with the world, and soon. Writing them has, I believe, made me a better writer. My brain has leveled up.
And that’s where those new ideas came from. Mystery solved.
My novel is now, once again, a work-in-progress. It’s a story that deserves the best I can give it, so I plan on taking my time with it. In spite of all the distractions, I’m making good progress on it. I think you’ll like it.
This whole tale will, I hope, serve as a reminder to other writers: we only improve with practice. And writing short fiction is incredibly good practice. You learn how to cut the unnecessary bits and how to strengthen what’s left, to really see the bones of the story, the structure it needs to stand on its own. And, at least for me, finishing a story brought with it one hell of a feeling of accomplishment, which also boosted my confidence, something I badly needed. If you haven’t tried it, I recommend it. Shoot for a word count of 5,000 words. See what you can come up with.
I’d love to tell you how to do it, but I’ve got work to do.