Awed Freedom

After the flurry of e-mails described last week, there were a few more, and ones which put me in a place of tethered freedom, and in awe of what I have been given.

I’m a wordy beast. Whatever. I’ve been better at cutting it back, and part of the reason I have tried to write short stories lately is because I want to learn how to cut the fat out and get to the good stuff while still telling a good story. I don’t know if I’m any good at it, but I try.

The story I just signed a contract for was going to be much longer. I was going to explore the characters in my head a little more, I was going to add another, I was going to elongate a battle scene, and do a little something more at the end. I ran out of room. I had to cut a character, shorten a scene, and cut back on the character development I wanted. This came up in the conversations with the acquisitions manager and the editor I have been assigned to. I expected to have to rearrange some things and edit more to make it what I want.

What I did not expect and am still shocked at, is to be given the opportunity to choose, in accordance with the editor, if I would like to elongate the story into a separate novella and put all the stuff I want in there, or to go a little over the word limit to flesh some stuff out. The editor made the choice for me, and I think she made the right one — let’s keep it as a short story, and use the unexpected gift of leeway to flesh out a little here and there. I don’t want to take advantage of it, but there is at least one person whose character is clear in my head, but not in the story, and I plan to use the time to beef him up. It’s totally new territory for me, and something I didn’t expect.

I was paralyzed at first, yet thankful for the publisher and the people I get to deal with. I’m sure it’s not unheard of, but it’s nice to know that at worst, kindness reigns there, or at best, that the acquisitions manager/owner has enough faith in me to allow me to go over the word limit for a better product. Not to indulge my wordiness (I hope), but rather because the story couldn’t be crunched much more, and could use some fleshing out. I’m thinking positive — that it’s good enough to warrant a little loosening of the tether, and that I can do it while not abusing the offer.

But that nagging part of me says that I should have been able to put it all in there. Twenty-five pages is a lot of space…and yet it isn’t. It depends. I don’t edit to Stephen King’s formula: First Draft – 10% = Second Draft. If I have a word limit, I write to that limit. The limit this time was 10,000 words. My story ended up at 9,965 words. Don’t judge me. I initially went over it by about 500 words and edited down to get that number.

So, have I learned something? Will my writing get better with this generously bestowed freedom? Will I at least learn when I’ve bitten off more story than my imposed word limit can handle? Why does this feel like an okay to cheat? (Oh, and it’s an opportunity I will take, don’t you get me wrong.)

No matter what, I’m grateful.

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~ by Darren Endymion on March 23, 2015.

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