bITS 'N CHUNKS
Ia, ia everyone,
So, I finally did it. I reached the end of yet another torturous short story. I have no idea what I'm going to do with it but ideally I'd like it published to a wide audience. I'll talk about this story again in a few weeks, but for now let's talk about the process of getting it done!
I don't write a whole ton about my writing process because...well. I don't do a whole lot. I keep my notes orderly and everything, and in an easily accessible place, but...usually my ideas spring forth from an idea. A song. A memory. Some shit I just want to make weird. I've tried to make my process seem more prim and writerly but my brain just don't function that way. I do not fly by the seat of my pants, but I do ride down the street on my bike with no shoes & no helmet. See?
So, first let's talk programs:
I used to use Evernote, but after they got freaky with their privacy regulations (as anyone that eventually allies with Google is wont to do) I switched back over to Microsoft OneNote. OneNote is robust enough for me and I KNOW MS is probably selling my private information so no surprises there.
Here's how my typical space looks like. I have OneNote on my phone and my desktop and I frequently use the web version. I think it's important to note here that I have pretty bad joint pain in my hips and wrists which often necessitates laying the hell down.
As you can see, I don't get too fancy with it. When I color code thing it's mostly for fun. The big chunks of space missing are super seekrit projects and what not.
Anyway, I'm trying to get a little better at organization. With OneNote, I can keep better track of my revisions. For example, I had 3 versions of one story saved at one point because I was taking bits and pieces from each copy and creating a new one. Like majolica.
Now the real reason I would do that is because I'm a huge fan of deleting things. Sweep that right on out! If it's bugging me, troubling me, that means the story is not going in the right direction. Take a break from it and delete a couple pages, see if you really miss them.
My usual mode of writing used to be heavy on purple prose but the older I get the more I want to tell all the truth, but tell it slant. I'm trying to get to a point, you know? I can say that point in a nice way. In a kind way. In a mean way. But my issue was always just getting to the purpose. Focusing on short stories has helped me a lot in this regard. I can still turn on the flowery poetry but I save that mostly for fanfiction or bumping my NaNo word count up a bit. I don't hate it, I just don't do it anymore. Jeez, I guess I'm one of those dreaded postmodernists now. But then I ask, when exactly is too much prose too much? Who am I writing for? To what am I writing?
I'll end this with an little example of how my thought process goes with this newly finished story. I haven't given it a title yet. But according to my time stamp in OneNote I've been working on this for roughly 4 months (since February 27).
Here is the opening from the original draft:
Dario kept fiddling with his cheap cameo ring. The gold plated band was tarnished and the ghostly white image set in black was dingy and scuffed. It really looks more antique than it is, he thinks, and that's pretty cool.
It's all he really wants to focus on, not his friend being slowly lowered into the ground on this drizzling, damp, suffocating afternoon.
A man stood at the head of the casket, dressed in heavy black robes and gloves like the others. Dario thinks he must be a minister but this gathering was secular as far as he knew. There wasn't even a wake or a visitation.
His skin is golden brown and his face weathered by age. He might be much younger than he appears, though. He has a leather bound book that showed the wear and tear of age and countless openings, but Dario thought the cracks resembled a symbol he's seen before. If it was what he thought, Cherise had them all over her house. From the prints on the couch to the soap dispensers in her bathroom. Just all over the damn place. She'd become damn near obsessive about it towards the end of her life.
"And now we lay to rest the body of our beloved sister of mud, and bring her home." The man's voice baritone voice boomed; definitely clergy, Dario thinks. "Though she has swum away from all this world's pain and suffering, may she return to us…"
And here is what it became:
These strange, bougie looking people from the small Mississippi community had rented a church out and re-dressed it with black drapes secured with gold ropes like royalty had fallen, and the same strange white symbols Dario's always seen in Cherise's house.
The ushers were draped in black cloaks like sculptures that repulsed their master. They stood still in the aisles with their heads tilted up and their arms out. They were humming so low and deep Dario thought his pew might be vibrating.
Dario keeps fiddling with his cheap cameo ring. The gold-plated band was tarnished and the ghostly white image set in black was dingy and scuffed. Cherise had given it to him a year or so ago, claiming it was true vintage ‘60s piece from an antique shop. It's all he really wants to focus on, not his friend's body resting comfortably in the long rectangular stone casket. The lid was engraved with the symbol. He supposed it looked a bit like a tree surrounded by a jagged circle. Was it fire? When Thad asked Cherise about it last, she said simply that it meant you belonged to somebody.
What do you think? Right or wrong, the second version is more satisfying to me. Yes, the first version sets the setting. It's very descriptive. You get to know characters without them saying too much. I firmly established we're dealing with a black gathering. But what led me to the second version is asking myself questions: how much does the protagonist know about these people? Considering his actions later in the story, how much is he going to get to know? How serious does he take this? Basically, the tone didn't match my goal for the first version and it was taking a long time to get started without doing a whole lot.
Another so you can see what I mean:
"Excuse me," he called, rain splashing his lips. "Excuse me!"
The clerical man was not particularly tall and certainly only an inch or two over Dario, but he looked clear above him then down, as if a child had gotten his attention. Up close, Dario feels like he's seen him before. His angular features and black hair with tufts of pure white are so distinctive he must have, but he can't think of where and when.
"How can I help you?" the man said. Even his whisper reverberated in the small space between them.
"Is there going to be a repast at her house?" Dario asked. "I haven't been told anything."
The man tilted his head up just so he could peer down at Dario.
"I thought I could go pick up some of her belongings."
"They will see to that," the man said. "Whatever they leave behind you can have. But do not remove anything with this on it."
Again, this is frustrating because it's serving a function yet somehow not. Why is there so much dialogue? This is a close friend of hers and she died suddenly, there are no items to get post funeral. We are already at the funeral where we should be. This was omitted completely.
You might be thinking, damn that's a lot of good material to leave on the cutting room floor. But that's what it's for. Keeping my revisions means I can repaste them in as I find necessary, but when I breeze through the whole story I don't really feel like I need to. I create big, expand, then widdle it down little by little until I've told all the truth, and told it slant.
Ia! If you've come this far, you're either looking for weird or you know you've found it...