Title: Piecing It All Together
Author: David B. Silva
Word count: 579; 65 characters per line
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Piecing It All Together
by David B. Silva
There's a little known secret we writers like to keep to
ourselves, because we fear that if word got out, readers would
immediately become disillusioned and abandon us. It's not as bad
as a reviewer spoiling a twist in the plot of a book, I suppose.
Those people should be tarred with onion dip, feathered with
potato chips and released to a crowd of hungry football fans on
the day of the Super Bowl. But it is a little like the magician
showing you how he fooled you.
Here's the secret: stories are rarely written from beginning to
end without rough spots along the way.
This might sound obvious, but if you're a good writer it should
never be obvious to the reader. Your stories should read
seamlessly. I know the process is anything but seamless. Piecing
Frankenstein's monster together was less daunting. You've got
stitches all over the page. Scotch tape. Different colored inks.
Scribbles in the margins. Stop and goes. And this is your third
draft. But after that final draft, all of this must be invisible
to the reader.
What you should take away from this is the understanding that you
have incredible freedom as a writer. No one has to ever see your
early drafts, your wastepaper basket full of crumpled paper, that
climax that was so ingenious when you first thought of it but
turned out to be a cliché on the page. Those are yours to keep.
No one need ever read them.
The process doesn't have to be painful, either. In fact, if you
remove some of the constraints you place on yourself as a writer,
it can be down right enjoyable. For instance, you don't always
have to write a story from beginning to end. Connie Willis likes
to write her endings first, then write the story back toward the
beginning. Jeffrey Deaver prefers to spend months working out
every detail of his story in an outline, with specific places for
twists. Dean Koontz, who used to outline his stories, now lets
his characters provide the impetus for his books. He follows
along behind and lets himself experience surprise much as his
Every writer has to find what works best for him. And every
writer has to understand that what works best for this story
might not work best for the next. Don't be afraid to experiment.
Don't be afraid to let go and see where it takes you. (This will,
of course, be easier if you stuff a dirty sock into the mouth of
that little editor sitting on your shoulder. You know who I'm
talking about. He's the one who never has anything nice to say.
So do that now. Dig out a dirty sock and use it.)
What I'd like you to take away from this is the comfort that a
word on a piece of paper (or on a computer screen, for that
matter) is not the same as a word etched in stone. It's okay to
work on the description of a character until you get restless,
then toy with the opening sentence or try reworking the dialogue
in that early scene. It's okay to toss out pages, try different
words, add scenes. Tinkering goes hand-in-hand with creativity.
And again -- no one will ever know.
It may resemble Frankenstein's monster to you, but all the reader
will see is a living, breathing story.
Just don't forget to pull the stitches before you're finished.
Copyright © 2005 David B. Silva
About David: David B. Silva has written eight novels. His most
recent, All The Lonely People, is published by Delirium Press.
He's awaiting the release of The Hawke Legacy, a novel of epic
horror, from Subterranean Press. His short fiction has appeared
in The Year's Best Horror, The Year's Best Fantasy & Horror, and
The Best American Mystery Stories. In 1991, he won a Bram Stoker
Award for his short story, The Calling. Visit his site,
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