Listen to the Story

I have always heard that it’s important to listen to the story, the characters, and the plot in any piece as it’s being written. To let these things be the guidelines for how a story is developed. For the most part I do try to do this, but in the case of a specific story, I did not heed these words of wisdom.  In doing so, I created a lot of heartache and work for myself that I could of otherwise avoided.

My short story (Dragonfly) was originally created to be submitted to a specific anthology. The max word count was 6,000 words with a fairly lenient theme. I though, “I can do this. It will be easy.” But as my idea for the story developed, I began to realize that I’d be lucky to squeeze under the 6,000 word maximum.  I only had a month to create the story start to finish so there was no time to come up with another idea, so I finished the story not happy with my results. I knew that the story needed more room to breathe and that 6,000 was too tight a squeeze. Sure enough, my rejection letter came back for the anthology. I can’t say I wasn’t surprised. I decided after two more submissions with similar results that it was time to do a rewrite.

I’m so glad I made that decision, because it had not only given me the space I needed to get some perspective on the story, I knew now exactly what the story needed to fulfill the story’s true purpose. After three new scenes, two days of work, and a complete read through, I found myself in love with a new and much improved story. And it went from 6,000 words to 9,400 words. I couldn’t help but shake my head. I suppose something could be said about needing time to figure a problem out, but if I hadn’t been so stubborn about trying to fit the story into a specific word count in the first place, I probably would have gotten a better story the first time around. It’s yet another reminder that even though it is important to be able to work towards certain goals, it’s also important (even more so) to be flexible enough to listen to the story and let it tell you where it needs to go.

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