I’m currently struggling with a story. It’s the same problem that every writer has…eventually. How to make this story work? How to reshape the character/s? How to finish the story when you’ve already invested hours into its creation? You’re presented with a fork in the road: call it quits (which is sometimes the best answer) or power forward and see where the story takes you. That’s one thing that I have to keep reminding myself about this story, something that has oddly become very fitting over this past year: let the story guide you (life is a lot like that too sometimes); it’s one boulder you can’t forcibly move.
So this story I’m working on…I’ve rewritten parts, changed the tense, changed the direction the story is taking, played with the interiority, and I have to admit, now, nearly finished with this umpteenth draft that something still isn’t working. My protagonist is dislikable, delusional, in an unfulfilling relationship with a much younger and equally infantile man—in other words, she’s the start of something. Yet, it’s her stubbornness (a characteristic we share) that is challenging. I’ve realized over the pages that as a character she’s too narrow, too restricting; she’s unable to open up or genuinely look at herself in a mirror, so I’m forced to conclude that I have to move the story away from her perspective, out of her reach and control. Another draft in my future if I ever recognized one!
But what does this have to do with anyone beyond my little writing world of me, my desk, and computer? It’s reinforced some of the things in my writing process that have especially resonated with me this year. The biggest favor I can do for myself, my writing, and my characters is to sit, force myself to remain at the desk, at my computer, typing, resisting the urge to soothe family frustrations with technology, to return texts, to check my email, to fill my mug when I realize I’ve drunk it empty.
As I’m realizing the new direction this story needs to take in future revisions, I’m reminded, (a) let the story write itself; no matter how much I want to steer it, only the story knows where it’s going; and (b) sit and write (and read of course!)—the words won’t get on the page if you don’t give them the time.
To everyone: May all of our pens or computers be ready to get to work this coming year, and may this year be full of joy and good tidings. Wishing everyone good health. Cheers.
Eliana Meyer is a first-year MFA candidate in fiction.