I just finished writing a short story for a contest over at teenreads.com. Entries are to be a modern retelling of a fairy tale or legend. The creative challenge inspired me and it didn’t take long to come up with a great idea.
I pounded out the story, and because it couldn’t be any more than 1,200 words, did a lot of editing. When I finished, I read it to my 11-year-old daughter who was the perfect target audience. As I recited the final word, I waited for her seal of approval. She sighed, looked at me, and shook her head. Not a good sign. Then she said in her most serious tone, “You’re overwriting Mom.”
If there was ever a time to insert the cliché “out of the mouths of babes” it would be right here.
I was shocked by her comment at first. Stunned, I stumbled out of the room, went somewhere quiet, and read it again. Really read it this time, thinking about the intended audience. My daughter was right. My words were too big. My transitions too jarring. In just 1,198 words, I had created a convoluted mess.
The experience reminded me of an encounter I had with one of my first English teachers in college. After reading one of my first short stories, he too claimed I should join the local chapter of Overwriters Anonymous. He droned over and over in class that the K.I.S.S. (Keep It Simple Stupid) Method should always be employed when crafting any story.
My papers bled red ink at the beginning of the semester, but once I implemented his theory, my stories turned into tales I was proud of. The prose was clean. The plot clear. The climax stunning. And the end satisfying. The idea is so simple, yet brilliant, how had I managed to forget it?
So now the piece is rewritten, and ready to send, thanks to the K.I.S.S. Method. I don’t know if it will win, but I will tell you after my daughter read the revision, she patted me on the shoulder, and proudly said, “Now that’s a cool story.” Enough said.