A ’57 Chevy Station Wagon Ride to Night
Writing is hard because you try to be better with each word you put down, or don’t put down, on a piece of paper. You can only be better than you’ve been. You can’t be better than say, Hemingway, who hardly put any unnecessary words in his stories. He was a master of succinctness. I am trying to be better in that category, in fact I must, if I want to write short stories.
Last posting I mentioned that I was in the doldrums. February does that to me. But look, there are still two days left in February and I’ve been working on a short story for over a week now. Amazing. I think it was listening to some rousing classical music that started the imagination process, and then a wonderful couple of articles in Writers Digest about short, short-short and flash fiction.
So I buckled down to writing a story called WAGON RIDES TO NIGHT. A homemade sign with those words intrigued me and wouldn’t let me go. I’ve gotten as far as determining that the wagon is a ’57 Chevy station wagon, turquoise and blue, with a driver who specializes in returning to the scenes of crimes committed against the young and innocent. I’m not done yet, but I try to push a little further each time I sit down to write. Some of the story is autobiographical and that makes it more difficult for me as I want nothing more than to forget my past.
Now comes the tricky part. Well, besides actually finishing, that is. I need to reduce my word count. I need to go back to the beginning and make every word count as two, and if it doesn’t then it needs to be ripped out. No darlings in a short story. Show no mercy to those words that, like phatic utterances, only take up space and time.
My story may never amount to much, it may not even reach the place I was hoping to take it. But, it will be a story, and I’ll try to make it as good as I can. Maybe it will need time to sit and rest, like bread dough, before it grows into what it’s meant to be. That’s the beauty of short stories, they are more malleable than novels.
The Writers Digest issue I referred to above (March/April 2017), mentioned an online short story challenge called StoryADay in which participants write a short piece every day for the month of May. I think I’m going to take that challenge this year. Interested?