Sunday, December 03, 2006


I have had a revelation.


Yes, I am of course not as naive as to assume that the first words that get put on a page are it, and should never be messed with. But I hadn't quite realised - or, let's say, allowed myself to realise - how much a writer can "mess with" a story, draft after draft. This revelation came about thanks to a book called
Revision: A Creative Approach to Writing and Rewriting Fiction by David Michael Kaplan which my friend Vanessa highly recommended. This book gave me permission to do things I had never imagined to the stories I felt needed work - change everything, kill characters, switch a character's sex, change the place, the time, the voice, the plot. I don't know why, but just reading the open few pages of the introduction to the book liberated me to try all sorts of things I had never tried.

Now, one of my new favourite pastimes is taking a story I wrote a few years ago, a story a few thousand words in length, a story parts of which I liked but which always irked me (like the story I thought was poignant but other people found hysterically funny), and rewrite the story in under 300 words. Make it flash.

Wow, this really works!

I've done this with two stories now, and it is amazing what comes out. A whole new twist emerged in both cases, which made them far more interesting than the longer, more cumbersome version.

I love flash fiction, I believe you can say almost everything in 250 words, so I am not now going to try and "scale up" these stories, even though I would like more words for my eventual collection, but that's another story for another post. But these stories make me happy just the (brief) way they are.

Thank you David Michael Kaplan.
Thank you Vanessa.
Thank you all for your attention.
Post over.


swz said...

its sounds so liberating! Carry on the good creative work!

Vanessa G said...

Hi Tania

I am SO SO SO glad that you have found that book as amazing as I did.

It gives 'permission' as you say, todo exactly what youlike.

I used to stop a story if it ground to a halt, if the main character tried to change sex, the city in which it was based turned into a desert... I just put it away.

Now I draw a line and carry on with a transgender MC and sand in the skyscrapers, finish it then go bacl and see whats what.

Its great fun.

yes, that the right word. he's put the fun back into writing, a lot of the time.


Heather S. Ingemar said...

My creative writing professor said something akin to that once during class. But I agree; you can't be shy of slicing n'dicing or killing your favorites. It really liberates things if you *can.*