The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Progress of a Story: Doubts


I can’t remember why I started writing this story. It seems ill-formed and meaningless. A complete mess about nothing much. Concurrently with writing this pathetic waste of computer disc space, I am working my way through Bill Gaston’s Gargoyles, a collection so varied and consistently excellent it has me thinking that the greatest service I can do for literature is to move into Bill’s house and take care of his lawn, do his laundry, etc… so that he’ll have more time to write.

Bill’s stories are focused and poignant. I can’t believe that even in first draft they were ever as crappy as the story I’m working on.

I cannot remember thinking this negatively about any of the stories I have finished and published. I can, however, remember thinking like this about all of the stories I have aborted mid-construction. Did I just push through with the other ones, the ones that got finished? And after their glorious completion and joyful publishing did I blissfully block out the period when my confidence flagged? They say if you truly remembered labour pains there would be no second children. They say a lot of things.

I don’t want to give up though. This year, several after his death, I have learned to love my father. There’s a wealth of fresh feeling that I want to give artistic expression to. I don’t think I’ve ever wanted to write a story more. But today, I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just get Bill Gaston to write it for me.

And then it occurs to me, maybe I should try to write a story my father would like, not one that’s about his doubts. Like most men, my father liked action movies- for his generation that meant War Movies. He had been in the navy and seen battle in Korea. If my father were to choose an event from his life to write about, it wouldn’t be the one I’ve picked- where he escapes from one demanding family only to land in another. He would pick a time when he was the hero of his own life. Doubts suck. Send in the heroes.

7 Comments:

Blogger Tania Hershman said...

Andrew,
good for your for working through your doubts. Sometimes a story just comes out and there it is, lying there, all lovely and gurgling and looking vaguely the way you thought it might. Other times, I find, it's stop-start-yuk-stop-delete-restart-whatamIdoing-stop-start-yuk. It really helps me to hear about other people's doubts, that wonderful stories don't emerge fully-formed, walking and talking.

I like your phrase, Send in the heroes. We could all do with that from time to time. Thanks for letting us know about Gargoyles, I haven't heard of it. I bet Bill Gaston struggled too...! (If you fancy reviewing it for the Short Review, drop me a line, editor (at) theshortreview (dot) com.)

Tania

Wed Jun 11, 04:28:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Thanks so much for sharing your thoughts with me, Tania. I so relate to the process you describe. I'll drop you a line about the review- sounds fun!

Wed Jun 11, 08:44:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Andrew, I'm so glad you're enjoying Gargoyles. I thought you might.

I go through that "this stuff is crap" every time I write a story. I can count on it! It's so familiar, now, that I try to plow through it, telling myself I've been able to complete something worthwhile before, I can do it again.

I think you're undertaking a wonderful journey of discovery by telling your father's story.

Wed Jun 11, 04:01:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Manuel Pereira da Silva said...

Excellent Blog...glad I found a new source for checking out what's new and hot in the Writers'...Thanks for writing good content!!!

Wed Jun 11, 08:18:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Chumplet said...

I've been ploughing through my current WIP for two years, with fits and starts. Half the time I feel I'm not up to the challenge, and at other times the words flow from my fingers.

Negativity sucks, but everyone feels it. You can do it. Be your own hero.

Wed Jun 11, 10:23:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger T. Lee said...

This is a great insight, Andrew. A great post. Writing a story from within your father's context/world will surely bring you somewhere new and fascinating. Good luck with it!

Thu Jun 12, 01:08:00 am GMT-4  
Anonymous ruth taylor said...

Do plough through. Perhaps if you follow that instinct to write about the hero your father would have wanted to hear about (if only as a side exercise), you will find that his (the character's) doubts bubble to the surface nonetheless. Interesting terrain to explore.

Doubts can lead to good things too.

Thu Jun 12, 10:43:00 am GMT-4  

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