You know that feeling when you have worked on a story so much that it is now lifeless, and you think, ‘Did it ever live?’. It’s like, it’s like, it’s like when a fisherman pulls an octopus out of the crystal Mediterranean and takes it to shore and beats it on a rock until it’s dead and what was jewel-like in the water is now jelly on land and what was beauty is now death and what had potential is just wet and slimy flesh grey on grey rock.
But maybe it can be salvaged.
It doesn’t have to be dead.
I’ve got to this thing, stage, where I know a story can become good if I put work into it after the writing’s writ. But sometimes that work can get a bit overworked. And it isn’t really very easy to know what the heart of the story is when you are the one who wrote it.
I have this group of friends from my MA that I still meet up with. We workshop each other’s writing. This evening I took a story that I like a lot, and I like the characters in it a lot, but I couldn’t figure out if it had any chance of ever living. It was just tentacles on a page.
My friends were so good. They were so nice. They had questions about the balance, the characters’ inner lives and histories. They thought maybe the ending was wrong. I began to defend it, and sort of talked them out of thinking that the ending was wrong. They were right, though. They helped me understand what was going on in the story and how to make it more like the idea that I’d seen from the corner of my eye, a story that almost got away.
Basically, workshopping is super cool.