I am some way down the road into writing my short story – the first one attempted since English Lit GCSE, which was longer ago than I’m prepared to say. I knew it was going to be a challenge because my brain insists on coming up with complex, convoluted story lines which don’t fit comfortably into short story parameters. So I got in an expert to give me some advice, I planned a maximum of four scenes for the story arc and only four characters, and I told my brain it was going to scale down for this one.
Brain did not listen. Approximately 2,500 words in, I have 7 characters and five – count them, FIVE – sub-plots. I’ve changed the narrator twice and the starting point four times. And I keep having new ideas.
SHUT UP, BRAIN!
I have now restructured the story. It’s become apparent that I can’t keep things particularly spartan in the story-telling arena, so I’ll have to simplify other aspects. There will now be only one scene – a ball where all the characters can meet, talk, split up, talk again, and generally have one really busy evening with everybody in the same room. I can’t quite get rid of all the subplots but I can turn some of them into simple conversations where the topic is raised, countered and dropped within 200 words. Two of the characters will have cameos only, which gets us down to five. That’s manageable, provided Brain stops messing around.
There is one other slight hiccup on the road to progress. Editing. It’s addictive. I keep telling myself I can give up Spiritus any time I want, that it’s done and polished and OVER. And then I think of a word on page 483 that would be slightly better if it was changed to an almost identical word. This rather interrupts the creative flow of new work, not only because it’s a distraction but also because now I’m subconsciously expecting the stuff I’m putting down fresh to come out as polished as the project I’ve spent months polishing. Which, of course, it isn’t.