It’s Never Enough


The cover to my upcoming collection of short stories, illustrated by Rowan Trea McCarty

Kill your darlings, kill your darlings, even when it breaks your egocentric little scribbler’s heart, kill your darlings. – Stephen King

The first step in getting a book published is sitting down and writing it. This may seem like an ordeal in and of itself, but it’s nothing compared to rewriting it. One has to look to see if there is bad sentence structure, misspellings, and to make sure that there is solid characterization, a smooth plot, and no contradictions. Sure, it’s nice to have an editor, but many of us beginning writers can’t afford them. Therefore we do our best to rewrite our own work.

In order to rewrite one’s own work, one must have an impartial mind, something that can be a challenge when the writer worked hard to create his or her novel or short story to begin with. But as Stephen King wisely said, “Kill your darlings.”  And believe me, I have had to kill plenty of my darlings, scrapping whole novels I put my heart and soul in. On a less dramatic note, it can mean just rewriting it. Such as has been my challenge while writing my book A Treasure Greater: And Other Short Stories. Writing short stories should seem simple enough, but I have learned that even short stories, if they are to be worthwhile for people to read, take a lot of time and effort.

I like to think that I am getting close to finishing my collection of short stories, but the stories of A Treasure Greater have proven more difficult to write than I anticipated. Each of these five fantasy stories has had to be rewritten, some just mildly, some heavily, and one story, which was to be the first story and the main story, turned more into a novel that won’t be in this collection. As I write and rewrite, I ask myself when will it all be finished? When will it be good enough? Will it ever be sufficient? There is a quote attributed, though often disputed, to Michelangelo, in which he says, “If people knew how hard I worked to gain my mastery, it wouldn’t seem so wonderful at all.” Those nights I stay up late or those times I work throughout the day, as I work on polishing up my stories, don’t seem so wonderful at all. There are times I feel like I am making progress and other times I feel like I am stumped. And yet, perfectionism can also be a problem, in which writers think that there writing is never good enough, but in truth there writing is good enough for the majority of readers. So, on one hand I have to worry about not taking my work seriously enough, causing me to release sloppy work, whereas the other problem is worrying about perfectionism in which I never release my own work because it’s never in my mind good enough. I have to strive for a healthy middle ground in my writing.

Hopefully my collection of fantasy stories, A Treasure Greater will be published by January or February of next year. Yet, the process has taken longer than I thought it would. Writing a book, even just a short story, isn’t easy. Let no one tell you otherwise.

(C) Jonathan Scott Griffin

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