The stories not written

One of the things about my revision-based writing process is that it feels like I chip things away from the story as much as — sometimes more than — adding them to the story. Which means as I keep writing, I become more and more aware of the stories I’ve chosen not to tell. They haunt the story, ghostlike, and sometimes I catch them out of the corner of my eye and feel a twinge of almost-regret, wondering what might have happened had I followed my story down another path.

It’s easy, too, during the harder parts of the writing process not to wonder whether those other paths would have been easier, better, more powerful after all. Because they’re unwritten, they can be idealized in the way the unruly story one is actually writing cannot. The stories we choose to tell, for me at least, are messier, more imperfect things than the ones we imagine telling and set aside.

But one of the sometimes-hard things about revising is that even so you have to commit, and let those other stories go–free them up to haunt the story in subtle ways, rather than to be told in more direct ones.

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