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Saturday, August 19, 2006
You know that feeling when your story starts to slip slowly off the rails? In very tiny ways it just gets harder and harder to write, like typing through mud.

I knew something was wrong. After long experience, I've learned to go back to the last place the story was going right and work from there. Sometimes it's really hard to find that place. I found it.

Back on track now.
8/19/2006 08:47:00 AM : : Sela Carsen : : 6 Comments

6 Comments:

I do this all the time. *groan* And I think I'm going to have to do it again pretty soon.

But what really matters is that you're back on track!

By Blogger Milady Insanity, at 9:40 AM  

Me to. It drives me nuts

By Anonymous Aimee, at 11:06 AM  

Ah, Sela, I don'tknow how obsessive you are, but I was commissioned by a really large magazine to do a story on Canada's original hippie, a real Damon-Runyon character who had key chains to sell and Haight- Ashbury stories to tell.

I went up to my attic loft to write the story, got seriously blocked--the character was more interesting than my rendition of him--and except for a couple of really dry runs, the story would not come.
...Decided I needed to clear my head, ran down stairs past my puzzled family and shot off to the nearest Tim Horton's for a cup of double-strength coffee.
Thought I'd come back with a fresh perspecive.
Nothing.
Back down the stairs, clumpety-clumpety-clump, past a now worried wife, to the restaurant again, thinking that three coffees would clear the logjam.

Back up to the loft. Nothing.

Why was I born?

BAck down the stairs.

"I am witnessing the breakdown of a once fine young man," intelligent wife is noting.

Back in the house, a little swooshy from all the coffee, rip up everything I'd written, start again, and through sheer journalistic discipline the job was done.

But now I was thirsty and needed a dozen beers.

Wrong career choice, right wife?

I submitted the piece, it was tactfully rejected by the big magazine, but it had a sister publication, Canadian Panorama, which accepted it.
Seems editors saw the snag, could hear the writer gasping for air in the copy, knew the writer was fast running out of gas.

Well, it was sold and done with.

But years later, when I went to graduate school in Writing, I submitted the same piece to an instructor, not telling her it was already printed.
"You had trouble at about the middle, didn't you?" Sharp editors could see the patch job.

Hundreds of stories sold, little trouble with any of them, then I hit some sort of Achilles' heel on a piece about Canada's original hippie.

I sold that same story once again to a provincial magazine out this way, but I still ponder over that broken piece of bone and how the healing marks could still be seen.

By Blogger ivan, at 12:22 PM  

It takes a finely tuned ear, and a skilled writer, to do that Sela. Often, we're too in love with whatever we're doing to discard and correct. Tells me what a pro you are.

By Blogger Sandra Ruttan, at 2:15 PM  

*sigh* Unfortunately, I did have to chuck some rather decent writing. But, oh well.

Ivan, I've had that happen, too. It took my editor to figure out where I went off the rails and help me smooth it out.

By Blogger Sela Carsen, at 2:38 PM  

Yep, yep and yep again.
May a time my work was edited into something creditable, where in the original submission it was not.
I had the best editor in Canada,
R. Gerald Anglin, lately of Maclean's Magazine here.
Mr. Anglin passed away, unfortunately, but not before giving my Light Over Newmarket ****
...But then he had to do that; we had become friends.

By Blogger ivan, at 6:19 PM  

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