Fiction, like thinking, is an ongoing process. A story isn’t something you ever really finish. You just keep working on it until you are ready to let it go, either into the dustbin or out into the world. Here are a few stories in various stages of that long journey.
Middle Grade Fantasy
Young Mary is a painter. Her art is colorful and bright. But when she stumbles into the world of her father’s favorite painting she discovers a land fading into the night. The last light shines from a distant tower, and nothing can exist outside its touch.
Given only the glow of a magical gown and a sword she cannot wield, she seeks out the shrouded keep, where a mysterious friend and the darkest of enemies await her. One guards the key to the light; the other plans to set it free. Both may lead it to destruction. Her tiny spark can shift the balance, but there are far worse things than shadows and far worse times than night within the painted realm.
Here, she is a Painter. This could be her masterpiece. But if she can’t restore the waning beauty, she will have to blot out the whole world to save it—and herself—from an even darker fate.
Story of the story:
I started this little book as a short story while working on my MFA. When I got to what I thought was going to be the end, it was already pretty long, and it didn’t seem finished, so I just kept writing. A few more months and it turned into a full novel and my thesis. It’s a beautiful book, both charming and dark, touching and eerie. with no commercial appeal, and I love it. But after three editing passes, it’s not nearly finished. I don’t know that I’ll ever go back to it, but it was an important lesson in crafting a book.
A humorous story of a woman not quite able to fully break up with her boyfriend
Author’s note: This is probably my favorite short story I wrote during grad school, and yet if I wrote it again today it would be completely different, not just because technology has changed, but because I’ve changed.
A story about a man who remains connected to his dead wife through her old facebook page
Author’s note: I am posting two versions of this story, written about 2 years apart, so that you can get a taste of the process of writing and how the same idea and characters and scenario can spawn two very distinct stories. You and I could never write the same story, even if we started from the same prompt, even if we used the same outline. In the same way, I can’t go back and write the first story again. When I tried, I got the second story.