June 7, 2010

SSFD ~ Week 1

As I said in Friday’s post, I’m making this the Summer of Shitty First Drafts, SSFD. Today, I make my first report.

Well, I did it! So far, so good. A complete story (3,330 words/10 pages) last week, revised and everything. I thought first I’d talk about the story and then about the writing of it.

The story is called “Hard Men.” It’s the story of a 15-year-old boy named Johnny Good. His parents have split up. His mother took his younger brother to live in California and Johnny chose to stay with his father, a respected high school chemistry teacher. However, his father is now deep in an addiction to meth. The first line is: “Johnny Good shot and killed his cranked-out father.” The total real time encompassed by the story is maybe 15 minutes.

The story was inspired by a line in Anis Mojgani’s slam poem “Shake the Dust”: “This is for the hard men who want love but know that it won’t come.” I actually had a page of it already written. I began the story a week or two ago (and talked about it here), but since I started the challenge last Friday (not a full week) I gave myself a little leeway.

As I said in the previous post about the story, I was having a problem keeping away from cliché. The way I got around it was to make the story very interior to the main character and to not make it strictly linear. In fact, I very quickly came up with the idea of a spiral in time circling wider and wider and originating the moment of the first sentence. So the central point of the story is Johnny killing his father, but then I wanted to go a little ahead in time and then circle to a little before in time and then circle ahead a little further, until I’d circled way into the past and way into the future. I don’t think it actually comes across this way ~ I think it comes across as very slowly moving forward in time, with digressions, but thinking of it the other way helped with its composition.

I also wanted it to have a happy ending. That didn’t end up happening, but I did manage an uplifting one. But, in this case, it turns out to be an ironic ending. (Dramatic irony = when the meaning of the situation is understood by the audience but not by the characters.)

As I said, I already had one page written, and then when I returned to it, I had a really hard time going forward, possibly because it wasn’t linear. I don’t know about you, but I have an easier time moving forward if my timeline is pretty much linear. As I was writing this, I would edit through what I had, add maybe a paragraph, and then go back and edit through. I couldn’t seem to get any forward momentum.

I had been composing on the computer, so I took a break and went to my favorite restaurant for writing ~ a great Mexican place where they have great margaritas and they know me. I took a printout along. I read through it and then started writing longhand. I wrote through almost the complete rest of it in one sitting. Then I went back to the computer and typed it through, editing as I went. Then I edited through it again and again.

I actually came up with the final words of it about halfway through. This has happened in the last two stories I’ve written. About midway through writing the story, I’ve written a couple of lines and realized that they were the end of the story ~ the perfect metaphor/image/idea.

Another thing that’s happened in the last couple of stories I’ve written: I jump way head in time about three quarters of the way through the story before I come back and end in the present. I find, in general, that I’ve been playing with time a lot more, but it’s interesting that the end recently has not been the linear end of time but something that happens within the discrete and limited timeframe of the story, yet to understand it or to give it irony I’m adding the death of the main character or an important side character.

I don’t know if all this is interesting to you. I know, myself, I love to read these kinds of descriptions of the writing of a story (a la Ron Carlson’s Ron Carlson Writes a Story).

What I’m Reading Today: More The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

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