Wednesday, 15 December 2010


Don't you just hate them?

If nothing else the OU's creative writing course is giving me exposure to aspects of writing that I desperately need experience in. Having written around a dozen short stories over the past twenty years, it is heart breaking to think none of them may be publishable, yet this is a fact I need to tackle.

My second assignment is to write a short story, 2,200 words in length and a short commentary. My first draft was over 4,000 words long. I tried editing it after a couple of days and while I wasn't happy with it, was totally stumped as to how I could cut fifty percent and still write the story I had intended.

I took Stephen King's advice and let the draft sit for a week. On Monday I tried tackling it again and spent a whole morning with my thoughts going round in circles. I eventually concluded that I just did not believe in the scenario myself and decided to rewrite almost from scratch. I still wanted to retain some major plot points and the essence of the ending.

By Tuesday afternoon I had written over 1,800 words and realised I was only half way through the story I was now trying to write. Cue attempts to tear out what little hair I have left.

I finally let my wife read both drafts. Quite simply she said I could probably cut out the majority of the first half of the story of my first draft and still make it work.

Cutting so drastically seems to be a technique widely used. I still wasn't happy with the first draft in terms of believability so decided to concentrate on the second. I wasn't able to bring myself to use cutting quite as randomly as simply removing the first three pages but eventually persuaded myself to kill off a major character and cut the first half down to 1,400 words.

Killing off that character allowed me a useful new perspective on the story. I had been blinkered from the start, trying to force a certain outcome that required this character. I was able to come up with a new ending last night which left me only slightly outside the word count. Plenty of room to trim!

I think I now need to let the third draft sit a few days so I can read it as a reader and hopefully finish the editing process. Once I'm done, and the assignment submitted, I'll post the drafts online for anyone who is interested in hwo I got from A to D.


  1. Hey Mark - sounds like a painful but very positive process! It must be really hard to be that critical of your own work, but also very important I guess if you want to significantly improve on it?

  2. Both painful and positive :)
    Definitely a good learning experience for me!