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The Ever-Changing Face Of A Story

Free today! (10/5/14)
Free today! (10/5/14)

In yesterday’s post about the anthology, 18, that my critique group released for its eighteenth anniversary, I mentioned the work wasn’t just the product of the members imaginations but also showed the critiquing of the group and the ability of the writers to take that feedback and work on it. I also mentioned that my story, Nightfall, went through a great deal of change. In fact it is one of the stories that probably changed the most from the original.

In my original story Marrille had a massive fear of giving birth and therefore of being assigned a mate, but the group thought this distracted from the much bigger themes in the story – muddied the waters so to speak (though I’m definitely keeping that fear for some poor future character to suffer).

Also, in the original version Marrille and Sario successfully made their provision run, visiting the local town, bartering for food and allowing me to show off all the wonderful creatures I’d populated the world with. However, cool as it was to me, not enough happened in the scene, and it set the action of the hawk attack too far back from the start, meaning a longer slog for the reader before life and death hung in the balance.

So my second version had both of those removed (along with some smaller more finnicky stuff I won’t waste time here on), however my story was still well over the word count and there was still something about the story niggling in a few minds and we eventually uncovered what that was.

The fix was to chop apart the start again. I thought I was killing a darling (a writer’s term for removing something you love that just isn’t working) when I cut the market scene, but taking out the start was much, much worse. My favourite character’s best moments were cut, in fact the whole power of his presence was diminished massively – but it wasn’t his story, it was Marrille’s so it had to go.

This should show how much a story can change between first draft and when it appears on printed page. A critique group, or at least some outside opinions, can help so much in finding flaws that you can’t see yourself, whether you can sense something’s wrong or not.

The cut start is still a darling, and though it was killed from the story I couldn’t let it wallow in a shallow grave in the Word Cemetary, so I’ve made it available here(read on site or pdf). You can read Nightfall in it’s final form first and come back to see the longer opening because of curiosity or read it first then read Nightfall as it appears in the anthology 18. You can buy 18 from Amazon. You can read the darling start by downloading it in pdf or reading it here on this site.

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