I always say that I’m a better rewriter than a writer, and for the most part that’s true. I’ve written about my love/hate relationship with first drafts and I try to get them done as quickly as possible so I can get on to the revision process, which I like and feel I’m better at.
However, I sometimes get it right the first time.
Hard to believe, I know, but it happens.
There are times when I get an idea for a short story, the idea comes so perfectly formed in my head that all I have to do is write it down. The only revising that happens are little tweaks and some polishing of grammar, word choice, and spelling and that’s it. Those are scary moments for me because I keep thinking I should be changing more, but I’m not seeing the problems. Eventually, after some worrying and mind-boggling, I give up and call the story done. I end up submitting it, thinking it’s a sure rejection.
Three stories that this has happened with have been accepted for publication.
“Land of the Voting Dead”, about a very unique polling place, came out in a rush and was in great shape when I finished it. It really did only need a few tweaks when I was done. Then I found an anthology I thought would be a perfect fit for it. Unfortunately, I was more than a few words short of the minimum word count. Surprisingly enough, after a few days thought, the scene I added to expand the work count came to me the same way the story did. It fit in perfectly with the rest of the story and the whole shebang got accepted.
“Sentries”, about plants used to deter unwanted visitors, was written with a specific anthology in mind. With the theme of the anthology in mind, I thought about what kind of story I could come up with that would fit it. There was no pressure; if I didn’t come up with a good idea, then I didn’t try to write anything for it. No big deal. Less than a week before the deadline, the idea came to me. I wrote it with the word count in mind, adding in a couple of scenes that weren’t in the original vision. Honestly, I didn’t know where I was going with them and thought for sure by the time I’d written the last word the whole thing was crap. I gave it a day and then read it again. Upon review, with a few small revisions, I found that it all worked and it ended up getting accepted to the anthology.
I almost got “Playing Chicken” right the first time. For the most part, the bulk of the story about a group of kids playing chicken with a ghost train and how it affected their lives, was right on. But there was one scene I just couldn’t get right. I knew how what I wanted it to, but I just wasn’t getting the job done. In the end, it took a couple of rewrites of that particular scene to get the clarity and effect I was going for. It paid off in the end, as the story got accepted to an anthology.
This phenomenon happened again last week. I got an idea for a flash-fiction story called “Someone To Hold” based on a superstition that if you leave a corpse’s eyes open, they’ll look for someone to take with them to the grave. I wrote the first draft of the story in a rush that I recognized. This story is mostly done. The revisions I’ll make will be superficial ones, polishing and tweaking to make it as perfect as I can get it. My hope is that I’ll be able to scrape up the entry fee money to submit it to a contest that I think it will do well in.
Then we’ll see if I really was feeling that first draft magic.