Last night I had a dream about the process of writing (how sad is that?) in which I was in the kitchen making a story from recipe book. 2lbs of main character, sieved, with 6oz of adversity and 2oz of resolution to be kept back then warmed up and drizzled over at the end.
I finished the story I began last week and the end that I ended up with wasn't the same end I had in mind when I started. Something serendipitous happened along the way which took me in a different direction and led to a much more effective finish.
I've walked round with a first line in my head for nearly a month but no story to go with it. Then I had a teeny-weeny idea for the story, very weak indeed, the equivalent of woman goes to shops, looses purse, comes back, but I got started because I have great faith in the telling and more importantly, I knew that my heroine was to come out of this story stronger than when she went in. I also had a theme, because I was writing for a competition. A theme is a useful device, but it isn't rocket science to come up with one. Think of an abstract noun: love; jealousy; anger; grief; alienation. They're all themes. It is in the concrete happenings during the story that themes are revealed.
So there were my ingredients. One line, a main character, a theme and weakest of all, a plotline.
I started. I wrote about 750 words and then scrapped 700 of them, my usual bad habit of not getting on with the plot fast enough, but also a useful exercise in which I get to know my character. I kept the theme in mind which gave me certain parameters and at about half way through, turned to the web to do a little piece of research about a road name. This was when the serendipity occurred. I'm not going to say the precise nature of what it was but it meant scrapping an entire character and a very funny scene, but it was worth it.
The significant thing, now I look back, is the ability to recognise the need to change when it occurs. During the writing process for a short story, my mind is always on it, tickling away, I glance down every avenue of possibility just in case there is a fantastic vista that way, but I've learnt to glance and not linger. Occasionally there is a fantastic vista though and you just have to go look.
Altogether, for my 2,500 word story I wrote about 3,500 or even 4,000 and it took many hours. I redrafted some inner soliloquy into dialogue for more variety and hinted at something instead of saying it directly, for more intrigue. I did keep the first line though and the last line wrote itself while I was busy trying to work out what it would be. I'll let you know how I get on.