>Setting the story aside

>This afternoon I finished writing a 7,500 word short story. And now I’ve got to set it aside. Tempting though it is to wrap up the manuscript and fire it off to my agent, I know that would be a mistake.

Most of the story’s still just in first draft, you see. So, happy as I am with it now, I can guarantee several things. First, it’ll be about 500 words too long. Second, it’ll have at least one continuity error. Third, there’ll be half a dozen places where I missed the chance to thread themes all the way through the narrative instead of just dropping them in when they occured to me. Fourth, for every metaphor that works there’ll be another that either falls flat or come over as way too laboured. And so on. All these things will become apparent next time I read the story, but here’s the catch: only if I wait. If I re-read it now, I wouldn’t see any problems at all.

I don’t know what causes this temporary blindness. Maybe it’s a side-effect of that punch-drunk feeling you get when the tale you’re telling is finally told. Maybe it’s just about letting the wine mature before you uncork the bottle. Whatever the reason, this much I know: the best thing I can do now is set the story aside for at least a week, preferably two, before I read it again. By that time, my vision will have cleared enough for me to see all its faults – in Technicolour. With luck, I won’t groan and dump it in the trash. With luck, I’ll give it the loving nip and tuck it undoubtedly needs, enabling it to become the story I really originally set out to write.

And for those of you who are interested, yes, this is another story in my ongoing series about a private investigator who’s good with dimensions. The working title is Missing, which is a terrible title and certainly won’t be the one I try to sell it under. The story’s a little different to the others in the series, but I’m not going to tell you why. All I will say is that it involves a trip to the zoo. If you want to know more, I’m afraid you’ll just have to be patient.

Like me, for now at least, you’ll have to set the story aside.

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