I think I have finished the poker story for the Wolf Creek anthology. Notice the operative word “think.” Sometimes it’s hard to know when you’ve really finished something.
I had some trouble with this story, so I thought I’d share the journey with you. Every writer can benefit from another writer’s trials, right?
To start with, this is the first time I’ve submitted to another editor’s anthology in years. I’m nervous about whether they’ll even accept the thing. I started over about five times – trying different openings, starting at different points in the story, having Kye and Chance do different things. I like to begin in the middle of the action, so I usually start with them either in the middle of an argument, or in the middle of some sort of struggle. This time, I opted for argument, then “panned out” to show where they were and why they were fighting.
I tried for a spare, stripped-down story when I usually prefer the more descriptive style – there’s a word limit for the anthology. This was another difficulty. How sparse is too sparse? You do need some backstory, some description, if your readers are going to see the images in their heads.
Then there’s the last sentence. I usually end with something indicative of the character’s personality. As I usually write from Chance’s POV, this means the end is usually something snarky or sneaky or tricky. I had some trouble finding the perfect line this time, and I’m still not as confident in the one I picked as I usually am.
I’ve cut about as much as I’ve kept, too. I deleted whole scenes, dropped dialogue that was going nowhere, cut redundant words and phrases. I have tried to be ruthless, though this is hard with your own writing sometimes. You get so close that you can’t really see the whole work any longer, so it’s hard to tell what’s integral to the plot and what isn’t.
This is why I rely on my “beta readers.” Always pass your work by at least one friend or family member who will give you an honest critique. You don’t want “I loved it” or “It’s great” here. You want someone to say “This part didn’t work for me and here’s why,” or “You can get rid of this part because it doesn’t do anything for the story.” Find a Grammar Nazi to check your sentence structure and word choice – those spell-check programs can’t decide if you’ve used the totally wrong word or mixed your tenses.
I’m at that stage now – the story is out to the beta readers and I’m waiting for their judgement. Then one final edit, some finger-crossing and maybe a little prayer, and it’s off to the editors.
Do you have any particular stories that were really difficult for you? What made them hard to write?