Fail, fail, fail, fail, succeed

Final First Draft

I just finished my newest short story as a final first draft – in other words, it’s an edited and proofed complete version with the caveat that I may edit it further – I just need some time away so I can come back and read it fresh later. I’m posting it as a record of where it stands at this point in time.

This one was harder than my previous stories for several reasons. First, it involves children, and I am not an expert in childhood developmental stages. When you are writing from the viewpoint of a child, it can be hard to pin down how complex their thinking is at any given age simply because some kids are going to be much smarter than others. There is also the issue that life will sometimes force them to know things that they shouldn’t know at their age.

Another issue I struggled with, and will probably require revision, is that I had a hard time keeping the word count down to what’s acceptable for a short story. I’m already at 9,300 words – which is pushing it for length – and it really needs more exposition for character development. The timeline may also need to be expanded… I’m not yet sure.

Regardless, I love it. It’s a really cool story that developed in unexpected ways. If anyone reads it, I hope they enjoy it as much as I did writing it.

My wife, who proofs my stuff, always says I shouldn’t be concerned with length, that it should just be as long as needed to tell the story. Intuitively this makes perfect sense, the problem is that many publications won’t accept short stories over a certain length.

Then there is also the issue with writing content that will be difficult for some readers to process (i.e. make them want to tune out). I have pretty specific thoughts about that, but again, I need to give it some time before I decide whether to change anything. I have already had an essay turned down for publication for content that was too hard-hitting and graphic. The thing is – life is hard-hitting and graphic. I understand that for many people some topics are just too uncomfortable, but hey – life doesn’t give a shit whether you’re uncomfortable or not. And here’s another news flash: You can’t fix a problem if you won’t fully acknowledge it.

The essay that was rejected for publication was about death, and this story involves child abuse – obviously both difficult topics – which of course is the very thing that makes them interesting to write about. In the case of the latter, I feel like skirting around the specific abuse is not really acknowledging what the victim went through – it’s not honoring their pain, if that makes any sense. I think it sends the wrong message, as if what happened to them was so wrong it should remain unnameable, which would only seem to reinforce their shame.

In reality, I believe that by failing to frankly acknowledge the specific acts of abuse, you are not “protecting the child,” because the child has already gone through this horror. No, what really appears to be happening is that adults are trying to protect themselves from having to acknowledge what human beings are capable of inflicting on children. And let’s be clear: I’m an ER nurse – I can tell you from experience that this shit goes on all the time.

Anyway, enough of my rambling – let’s get on with the show!