Telling Stories

September 26, 2011

As a non-fiction writer, I’ve always considered my rewrites to be where the “real writing begins.” I work with an outline, then write a first draft, then as I edit I craft, rewrite and try to give my piece energy, color…life.

My process for fiction has been very different. I’m not working from an outline, the story pours from my pen as I scribble onto wide ruled spiral notebook paper. The next morning I type the previous day’s work…do some light editing as I type, then print a hard copy. I forced myself not to edit or rewrite until I finished the end of my first draft, primarily because I was pretty sure that if I started doing rewrites from the first or second chapter, I would never finish.

Now as I rewrite, it’s more like hearing my father tell stories of my childhood. The story is already formed (it already happened) but he tells it with a little more flair, more energy and often more humor than the incident actually had when it happened. I think to some degree my kids would say I do the same with stories about them.

My book is like one of my kids. I gave birth to it. I’ve watched it grow and develop. And now that I’m rewriting, I’m telling the story a little differently than it “actually happened,” a little more flair, a little more energy…maybe even a little more humor than there was in the first draft.

This is not to say that my boys need me to tell their stories with more energy or flair…if you know them, you’ll know that their lives are filled with energy, brilliance and wit, and that they are all great story tellers without any help from me. No, I’m just making an observation that I think happens a lot in life. As we retell our stories (true or fiction), we often give them (whether they need it or not) more drama, more humor, more energy…

So I’m going to get back to work retelling my story (hmm, I think I like that…less intimidating than rewrites…I’m just retelling my story) and maybe this time it will be even more exciting than what “really” happened…

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