Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Keywords For Writers That Work

It was only a year ago that the picture above was taken in  a picturesque French village. Ken wasn't as enthused about visiting France as I was, but it turned out to be a good trip for him, as well. I've been mentally reliving the trip these last few days, as it was one of my favorite overseas visits.

My musing was partly because of an essay I wrote about one of the stops that left us both  deeply impressed. The WWII American Rhone Cemetery etched itself onto my heart, where it stayed. I knew I wanted to write about the experience when we returned home. It was one of the first stories I started, even before we'd drifted through the several days of jet lag. The emotion I felt in the open air chapel still overwhelmed me.

I wrote the story. It just wasn't right. So I waited a few days and tried again. I sent it to writersandcritters, my online critique group. They had some good things to say but also pointed out the many spots that just plain didn't work. I knew they were right. Something was missing. But what? I revised it again and finally threw up my hands in disgust. Into the "to be worked on" file it went. 

The story stayed in that file for many months, but it circled round and round in my mind from time to time. Still, I didn't pull it out and work on it. Finally, a few weeks ago, I opened the file and read the story. Then I started from scratch and rewrote it. Not once, a couple of times. Sent it to wac for a critique. I waited for the red axes to slash through it. 

Wonder of wonders, only a few minor little things were suggested. Even so, I waited a few more days, did a final revision, then sent it to an editor of a senior newspaper in a nearby city. I suggested to her that it might be a good piece for the November issue which would most likely commemorate Veterans Day. She wrote back in record time that the story was perfect for the November issue and then went on to praise the writing. Which, of course, had me floating on a cloud for a few hours afterward.

The point of all this is that we shouldn't give up when a story doesn't work right. Put it away, let it simmer, let your subconscious mind filter ideas. Then work on it again until it's satisfying to you (and to your critique group if you have one). The process for this particular story took close to a full year. That's perfectly alright, even though it gave me a hefty dose of frustration. That old patience and perseverance advice worked well with this one. 

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