Get In Late, Get Out Early

I just finished writing a short story I started writing almost a year ago. It wasn’t exactly a steady, continuous process, though.

It started when I was doing some medical research for another story, and one particular process got my wheels turning, and I started writing.

I got about three paragraphs in and there was a problem. I realized that the story — was super boring.

So a few months later, I scrapped it and started over, trying to add interesting details and empathetic situations and lyrical syntax. This time I got perhaps five paragraphs in before I could no longer deny that gut feeling that this was not a good story.

I pondered it often in the months that followed. Despite how badly it had turned out in my prior attempts, I couldn’t get rid of the idea that if I could just find the right way to tell it, it could be a powerful story.

Then, about a month ago, I had a breakthrough.

My screenwriting books are always preaching that when writing scenes, one should “get in late, and get out early.” That means that when writing a scene, start it as far into the situation as you possible can without missing important information. And as soon as you have all the information, get out pronto. If the point of your scene is to show how Wilma is manipulating Fred into getting a new car, don’t start with several paragraphs of small talk about how Bam-Bam and Pebbles really should have a play date sometime soon. And after Wilma finishes convincing Fred that they really need a new footmobile, don’t hang around the scene while she cooks dinner.

Basically, trim all extraneous information.

Thinking over this rule sparked an idea for my story–what if, instead of leading up to the event I was trying to show the results of, I cut straight to the results? Eliminate the event itself altogether. Deal only in the aftermath.

I sat down and wrote a page, which worked well, the next week I wrote a few more paragraphs, and a few days ago, I drummed out the rest of the 3,000 word story. And I”m really happy with it.

Are you having trouble keeping your writing from being boring even though you’re passionate about your topic?

Try getting in late and getting out early. If it doesn’t matter to your story, it has no place in your story.

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