A little under a year ago I wrote a story called The Ghosts of Venus. If you’re in CVS you probably remember seeing it. It’s a concept that I enjoyed, a story that was fun to tell, and it let me dip my feet into a pulpier style of writing that felt pretty damned good. However, there were some rather glaring flaws in the story. Not the least of which stemmed from a woman largely talking to herself for the first half. And a world I didn’t get the flesh out properly. And a character I wanted to explore more. Even though I had cracked the Hugo and Nebula defined lengths for a Novelette, it still felt like it was missing lots of big things.
But it wasn’t a novel.
So I’m trying it as a novella, and so far it’s a damn fun experience. I brought along some extra characters so I could have crazy things like interpersonal drama and conversations. I know, that’s crazy talk.
What this meant was breaking the original story down completely, pulling what few cogs and gears I could out of it, then going to the work bench and bulking it up. Massively. We’re talking about a transition from just over 7500 words to something that should land in the range of 25-30k, a quadrupling of length. It’s a challenge, but it’s a damn fun one, finding places to actually insert a story, create a problem to solve, all while keeping large parts of the original concept in tact.
Our stories are our darlings, our little babies. And just like any baby, it’s important to know when it’s time to slaughter one to pull out what parts of it you want while creating an unholy monstrosity that will dance to your pan flute. Or something like that. I’ve still got a few months to get this fatherhood thing figured out. The point is that we sometimes need to stop coddling our stories, and realizing that they aren’t perfect and precious little things, but that there’s something that can be done with them.
I used to dread starting a story over from scratch. I was far more willing to just forget it and let the file linger on an external hard drive. But as I’ve had concepts that I love too much that turn into stories that aren’t quite right, I’ve seen the power in being willing to open up a new file, stare at that blank page for a minute, then start over again from word one. It’s work, yes, but writing was never meant to be easy, and the results are often so much better than before.
Now…if I could only get those results the first time through a project I’d really be kicking some ass.