Monthly Archives: September 2013

Haunted by Stories

There are some stories that have haunted me since I first started to write, in my early-twenties. They’ve nagged me to tell them ever since. In 2003, 17 years later, I was in a position to tell them, so I started writing again. They deserve to be told well. I wrote many drafts of three of these stories five years ago and seen so much of them, it’s more difficult to see them for what they are: “familiarity breeds contempt.” Ignoring them hasn’t made them go away.

These stories have clung to me, despite my attempts to ignore them. I suspect they won’t let me go until I’ve gotten them right. In my haste to exorcise these stories, I’d entered them in contests. The stories failed, for the most part, because they’re just drafts. In each case, I didn’t see the story’s weaknesses until after I’d sent it out.

I don’t edit copies of stories. I edit the original file. I despise Word, always have. When, as a kid, I sat down to write, I wanted to get it over with, but Word made itself the centre of attention, detracting me from the act of writing stories. Open Office was marginally better than Word. Pages was better than Open Office. But all three of these applications tended to get in Story’s way. Instead of sating the ghosts, the software hindered their development, because I allowed it to.

Since 2008, I’ve written exclusively in Scrivener, a great application – a writer’s friend – I also keep the chopped out bits in a dedicated deleted snippets folder inside each Scrivener project. The software no longer impedes Story. Scrivener makes it easier to focus on the writing. It’s helped a lot, and removed one more excuse not to appease Story.

I still don’t like rewriting. Never have. When I write, I attempt to churn out a complete story, and then move on to the next. It has’t happened. I know it won’t, but it hasn’t stopped me from trying.

One of the stories that has haunted me is, in part, a ghost story – in that the main character is dead. It was given to me about 26 years ago. Initially, it was supposed to show the narrator’s father was’t a complete d-bag, but as it played out, he became a bigger one. It was also quite graphic, detailing the moment the narrator decides to kill himself and then his suicide preparation. Scenes that I’d thought were important to the story, but really just bogged it down. It’s now less than half of its original size.

As the story has evolved, the father’s role was reduced to the subject of a conversation between two spirits. The reason the narrator wants to kill himself became irrelevant to the story. His suicide attempt, not its preparation, remains relevant.

Rather than working through the story, I’m writing this because I’ve spent close to eight hours working on this one sentence:

As I got closer to the mountain, the temperature dropped and the air began to smell like a forgotten room.

I’m not sure it was worth the time I spent crafting it. In fact, I’ve been looking at it so long, I’ve started to hate it. So it’s time to move on. There are many other sentences and more stories crying for attention.