Writing–The Nightmare of “At 3:36”

Last week I wrote about how some stories seem to come to me as if by magic. That first draft comes so easily and requires very little revision to create a final project.

And then there are stories that are the bane of my very existence, the ones that I struggle with and can never seem to get them right no matter how much I mess with them.

All of my stories get revised. Whenever one of my short stories gets rejected, I always review it to see if there’s anything I can do to make it better. I admit that some stories get more than a little tweak after a rejection. Both “Erin Go Bragh” and “Elevator” (both published in my Rejection book) ended up getting significant rewrites more than once after being rejected. “Such a Pretty Face” required some serious work to get right.

But “At 3:36” is a story of a different beast.

It started off simply enough. I got an image of a scene in my  head, a woman looking out the window, watching as the world stops spinning for forty-five minutes at the same time over several days. I wrote it out, explored that scene, and came up with the first draft. The sticking point was that I didn’t want to explain why the world was stopping. It was just happening and the point of the story wasn’t that the world kept stopping and needed to be fixed (this isn’t a SyFy movie, after all), but how my main character reacted and dealt with this event.

But I couldn’t get it right.

No matter how I cut the story or rewrote it or change it (keeping two basic things intact: the world stopping its spin and the main character’s reaction to it), I couldn’t get the story to work. I couldn’t get it to feel right.

I go a lot by how a story feels. If I feel like I’ve told the story I want to tell and created the effect I wanted to create, then I’m satisfied and I can work on polishing and revising that story to make it the best it can be. I never got to that point with “At 3:36” and it was pretty disappointing.

The other day I was in the shower, letting my mind wonder over things I needed to work on, stories that needed to be told, money that needed to be made, the typical things that run rampant in my brain during my morning showers. It was during these mental gymnastics that the possible solution to my “At 3:36” story woes came to me. I think I’ve finally figured out how to fix this story once and for all.

I won’t know for sure until I actually do it, which won’t be until December due to Nanowrimo, but for the first time, I’m excited about this story.

Considering that I hated it as soon as I was done with the first draft, that’s a big improvement.

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