Since the past year, I've been editing my short stories, actually going back to them and not letting them collect dust on my laptop. After college, I started writing fiction, much of it loose narratives, with shaky middles and non-existent endings; though the beginnings were always interesting off-shoots. I hated going back to them, simply my eyes grew bored with the same words, or I had other work that left few hours in the day to edit or share. With other responsibilities and distractions, I didn't always give my stories the time and energy they deserved.
All this time, I had two completed short stories, reminding me that finished stories were possible. I'd tinker with the dialogue, or add a few words here and there; it was a source of relief that at least they had endings, culminations of the original idea.
During a fiction workshop in New Orleans, I was reminded of the immense value of having readers give intentional, constructive feedback, and similarly in giving feedback for their pieces. I recognized their strengths and what was missing from my writing. As of late, working with DC Writes, has allowed me to engage with a variety of writers (of different genres and backgrounds) that consistently give and receive feedback, creating a small community of readers. It's one thing to have friends or family members read your work, but when you're constantly reading fiction or poetry you start to develop a keen eye for elements that resonate or subtract from the piece, noticing even minute details that the writer may have ignored.
Inevitably, when I get tired of staring at my stories, I rotate and move onto poems, essays, or reported articles. Though the issue with leaving these stories for another day is the weight they carry, so I don’t necessarily want to go back to that same stagnant feeling. I can't deny I’m obsessed with exploring new characters and places, filled with unexpected emotional queries, playing it out, and seeing where it goes. This has driven me to write new fiction and explore outside realism, adding humor, horror or mystery with a bit of satirical commentary. The longer a storyline stays in your mind, the more you play with it, so that a new thing emerges each time, like a sculpture. It's a balance between planning a story and being in the moment.
Recently, I tried writing a full skeleton of a story in one sitting then coming back to fill in details about characters, setting, exposition, tension, conflict, finding the trail each time. It was a refreshing process instead of trying to write the full story from the beginning, and only advancing slightly, because each section becomes so laborious.
Also, there's this idea that “the story,” is always the final story (the one to rule them all), but I realize you can always change it. You can have alternate versions and compare, or write it in a variety of styles: realistic, humorous, speculative, even alternating POV. Knowing this takes the pressure away and makes writing fun. We're led to believe that our writing is finite, that we can't throw away, reuse or recreate. You can never write enough. Still, time is not an endless fountain, it gives us a sense of urgency; a source of motivation to dream up, and not get stuck on a single story.