The Pyrenees---Southern France

The Pyrenees---Southern France

Sunday, January 29, 2012


       Oh, have no fear. This post is not about what people normally think of when TMI is mentioned. I'm not going to paint a picture of what I looked like when I got my head stuck in the sink, too cheap to pay $5 for a shampoo at the stylist...I'm not going to describe what my evening "attire" is, after a long day of herding third graders...I am going to spare you the psychological scarring you'd suffer if I made you visualize what happens when a fifty-something woman's body meets gravity head-on...

      No, this TMI lesson has to do with writing. And I learned it in my twice-monthly critique night. The teachers? Linda O'Connell, Lynn Obermoeller, T'Mara Goodsell and Beth M. Wood. They're better than nuns at rapping my knuckles when I do wrong...

      At our last class meeting of the WWWP (Wild Women Wielding Pens), I shared a hockey story. Chicken Soup had a call-out for hockey stories (the deadline is tomorrow) and even sent out a reminder, which--to my way of thinking--meant they didn't have very many submissions. Since I had no real hockey stories, I thought even I might have a chance. Because I had two "near" stories.

     I brought both, thinking I could beg them to read the other story sometime in the next week and send it back to me, all marked-up. (I even had stamped envelopes at the ready, in case anyone agreed.) The problem was, the deadline would come before we had the chance to meet again. Two piles of crap had a better chance than only one, I thought. 

       And the lesson I learned is this: sometimes part of the story is TMI. It may be part of the story that you get down, in the initial draft, and in your mind, it's really a part of it. However, if it doesn't move the story along, if the story can stand without it, cut it loose.

       In one of the stories, I was in the locker room with a bunch of teachers and one hunky hockey player (true). There was quite a scandal because the hunk flirted shamelessly with me a crime scheme was being hatched (true). And although most of the giggling, fawning teachers were women, there were a few men.

       Since that was true, I thought it important to include. Of course, the WWWP's went after me with a meter stick. The fact that some men were in the group was unimportant. Delete. Immediately.

        The other story (in  the end, they looked at both, after moaning and groaning about this one) got some major slash-and-burn work done. Half the story was spent explaining how I got some tickets to a semi-pro hockey game. Was it important that teachers sometimes got the chance to get free tickets to a comedy club or a semi-pro baseball or hockey game? No. So, a 1,200 word story ended up 37 words long (just a slight exaggeration).

        Barry Lane talks about three drafts. The Down Draft is when you get the story down. Just let the words flow, and banish your inner critic during this phase. Then, there is the Up Draft. This is where you fix it up. Revise. I should have cut those dead limbs then. Finally, there is the Dental Draft. That's where you look at every nook and cranny, checking for anything loose, anything that's out of place...the editing part, and the final touches of revision.

       Do you have any stories about having a part of a story or poem that you thought was integral but later saw the light?



  1. My inner critic is a ninja of sorts. Everything I write gets cut to bits, and sometimes it even gets cut into separate pieces. I tell myself it's the one advantage of growing up with impatient people.

  2. Tammy--My style is the exact opposite, so it's interesting to hear your comment. I just retch it all up, and then have to deal with the mess...

  3. Ahh, Sioux, you're such a refined lady! I visualized a young Queen Elizabeth retching alongside her Corgis as I read your reply to Tammy. ;) p.s. She was not wearing Crocs.

  4. I've been finding lately that my stories change direction and focus when I edit. Been leaving me feeling like I have bi-polar muses lately.

  5. Oy. All the time. The cool thing, though, is that sometimes that extraneous info you're culling from one story has enough juice to be the headline in another. So great when that happens!

  6. Val--Aah, yes, that's me. Always refined.

    Janel--That could be used to your advantage...Write something dark when the muse is in the low phase, and write something light when the muse is manic.

    Lisa--Tammy calls that "Separation of the Siamese Twins." You have two stories within one piece. It IS marvelous when that happens...It makes our work a little easier.

  7. All I need to do is read it aloud to my husband, he will get a glazed look if the story strays too far from the topic. Having a husband with ADD has it's advantages.

  8. I love the Down Draft, Up Draft and Dental Draft. Says it perfectly.

  9. You clearly know this happens to me! I agree with Cactus - Down Draft, Up Draft and Dental Draft (ha, just was thinking the acronym for that could be DUD. Check your DUDs. What DUD are you in? Okay, well you know what's wrong with me.

  10. Hi Sioux,
    It happens all the time with my stories and essays.
    Last week I wrote a children's short story. It was supposed to be humorous. No one laughed when I read it at critique group. Even as I read it I realized it wasn't very funny. I took it home and did some major revisions, beginning with cutting out the first few paragraphs, which set the tone as a poignant story rather than a humorous one. I'm not sure if it will get published, but it was a good exercise.
    And I love the Down Draft, Up Draft, and Dental Draft technique.

  11. Kathy--It also helps if you have a spouse that is easily bored...

    Lou--I like it, too. Barry Lane is a brilliant teacher of writing.

    Lynn--DUD. I love it. HFF...DUD...You are a brilliant phrase-smith.

    Donna--I can totally relate to your story about your piece. That's happened to me, too.

  12. An instructor once told me it was called chopping your babies and leaving them on the floor. A barbaric image. I like DUD better.


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