For years I have been working on a short story which has plagued my imagination for quite some time -- the idea of which sparked within my brain during my short stint as an employee at a bookstore some four or five years ago. It was a story which took one wintery day and an entire pot of coffee to begin. I wrote on a whim, allowing the words to free-flow without any real thought or purpose as to where they may lead; and what I wound up with was a twenty-page manuscript which had no ending and just a lot of dribble-drabble which I loved. Good enough!
It took a few months before I really found my way to a conclusion; after which came the inevetiable (and dreadful) revision process. So I sat down with a printed copy, started up a pot of coffee, and began reading openly without any bias (a bias which can only be described as I-am-the-author-of-this-here-masterpiece-and-feel-every-word-of-it-is-masterfully-crafted!). And when I was finished I set down my coffee and my manuscript, gently rose from my favorite sitting position (crossed legged on the couch), walked into my office, turned on my computer and began playing a multiplayer first-person-shooter game to help relieve my utter disappointment and frustration at having crafted the biggest pile of slushy crap to ever grace a 5,000+ word-count -- I figured that perhaps it's best to stick with what I'm truly good at: shooting counter-terrorists across open fields with long-scope sniper-rifles!
Anyway, it was only a matter of time until I decided to sit down and try my hand at editing the original piece, but I knew that this revision was going to bear the scars of more than just a grammatical operation . . . the plot needed to undergo a messy dissection! So I made a pot of coffee, smoked a few cigarettes, and scratched my head for awhile (because I had dandruff at the time) and began to muse about what exactly needed to change. Then it occurred to me: less words!
WARNING! Lesser word-count does not a good revision of plot make!
I know that many times a short story must undergo a dramatic transformation in length in order to fit the scope of publishable material (most zines I submit to request under 5,000 words), but to try and fix a plot by merely chopping off words left and right is truly a macabre way of crafting a story!
So there I was, again, back in my office, sitting at my computer -- only this time playing a game of chess online as I had deemed gaming to be a distraction and set out to uninstall every game I had so as to focus on more important things in life; but not straying from the rationale that gaming is a much needed stress reliever . . . I merely justified that if I am going to play a game online then it should at least be game which takes intelligence!
Anyway, long story short (too f___ing late!) I finally decided to have a go at the story one more time (which by this point had seen at least five revisions -- in both plot and length, but to no avail). Even though I was in the midst of revising/rewriting another story I decided to make a pot of coffee, light up a cigar, scratch my head (this time in thought . . . dandruff gone!) and set out rewriting what I had originally intended for all those years ago! But I knew the plot was still in dire need of a change and so I wondered to myself: what could be more drastic than erasing a character altogether? And poof!, I set out with a brand new revision.
One week, seven cigars and twelve pots of coffee later, I'm left with a brand new story that has a 9,000+ word-count and is now in dire need of a serious revision all its own! GAH!
But it wasn't all for naught . . . right? It's all about the crafting of crap, not the crappy craft . . . right?
Anyway, I feel slightly more hopeful with this new re-imagining. It still isn't how I figured the piece should or could have been, but I am coming to grips with it being one of those stories that just may not be suitable for zines seeking smaller word-counts. After all, a story is more than just words.
"Rough Music" by Simon Kurt Unsworth
5 years ago