Friday, June 29, 2012

Work in Progress: Let's Keep It Short

If you read this blog with any regularity or know me, you may have noticed that I spend a great deal of time bemoaning the fact that I seem to be incapable of writing any stories that are truly “short.”  Twenty pages feels “short” to me, whereas twenty pages feels “long” to many literary journal editors, especially those who think, “Do we like this story more than the twenty poems by twenty different poets we could publish instead?”

Indeed, a current work-in-progress is already spiraling way out of control (though I confess that starting out with a plan of six separate sections may not be a way to ensure success in keeping things trim).

But today I discovered the secret to writing shorter, and it’s so simple that I have to laugh at myself:

Write by hand.

You know, on real, live paper, preferably smallish pieces of paper, like journal-size, so that you start to mentally freak out when you’re on page twenty, which would really only be about page 5 of something typed into a computer.  When you freak out at this point, after 20 smallish pieces of paper, you quickly find ways to wind things up.  Plus, at that point, your hand is very tired, so you also are motivated to wind things up.  “Wind things up”:  is there any lovelier phrase to those ensnared by the verbose?

Yes, I know that Charles Dickens also wrote by hand, though I have no idea what size his paper was, and nevertheless, he managed to produce some doorstops.  Tolstoy.  Melville.  Etc.  Still, I suspect their hands were made of sterner stuff than mine, and since I’m terribly wimpy about pain, I really think I’ve found the solution. 

And now…time to wind this up.  Happy Friday!


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.