So, as I mentioned last week, I committed to produce a story just three days after Passover was over. I did prewrite before the holiday, and even had started a first draft in longhand (I often do). It was this surprisingly dark piece, written in second-person. A concerned family member was talking to “you,” and “you” (it becomes clear) are suffering from a clinical depression.
When I picked these materials back up after Passover had wrapped up, the first thing I thought was: ugh.
- The tone was too dark, especially for this particular venue (Ironically, the theme I was given was “Put some spring in your step!” Right.).
- The second-person thing effectively pulled you in–making the dark subject matter even more depressing.
I felt like hyperventilating. Was I back to square one? With only three days to go?
I picked up the same characters, the same initial problem, but first changed everything into first-person. The narrator is now telling a non-involved reader about her depressed sister.
Ahhh…not so intense.
Then I filled in the plot, changing some more of the details. I realized the ending would have to be different than I initially imagined.
At that point, I realized that it didn’t make sense for the sister to be depressed–she should be angry. I rewrote the allusions to her sadness (poor appetite, disinterested in normally pleasurable activities), and inserted in their places snide, passive-aggressive comments.
When I looked back at what I’d written, I realized that some of what I’d written reflected my own experiences–not in exact detail, but in the underlying experience. A bit embarrassing. I prayed my editors wouldn’t try to psychoanalyze me.
Next, I asked the closest available beta reader to read the second draft. (Also known as “Hubby,” when you live on the West Coast and it’s already 10:25 p.m. PDT.) He told me that the story was good, but took too long to get to the point.
The next morning, I cut the first 425-ish words.
Then I put back about two dozen of them, in a different place.
I filled in a few more details about the scenery, fleshed out the dialogue to make it more realistic.
Beta gave it another once over. “Much better.”
Thank G-d, I made the deadline.