Friday, January 25, 2013

Your Spine: Telling the Story YOU Want to Tell

This week has been a good week for me.  After 13 drafts of a manuscript that I have been working on for exactly ONE year and ONE day, I think I finally have it "right"!  What a great feeling.  But what a long and winding, sometimes totally wrong, path it took.  And when I say I finally have it "right", I mean that it is the story that I want to tell.  That's the key.

This particular manuscript idea came to me through a friend's Facebook status one day.  Immediately I set to write the story.  I was so inspired.  I loved the idea and thought it to be totally original and fun.  I was excited by it.

Fast forward several months and several critiques later.  I looked at my manuscript, and although it was still a cute story, it had .lost something.  It had lost my original idea and any thread of the inspiration.  It was no longer the story I wanted to write, but completely different...created from the various critiques and comments I had received from many teachers and colleagues.  It was no longer the story that I wanted to tell.

Enter Scott.  He's a member of my Critique Group and had heard me speak of the original idea behind this manuscript and had even read some early early drafts.  Upon reading a later draft, he told me that he liked the original idea and felt that I had gotten way too off-base.  I needed to hear that.  He was right.  Thank you, Scott, for being honest and setting me right.

That night I got home, pulled up one of the early versions of the manuscript on my laptop (and yes, I do believe you should keep all versions of your stories...maybe for this reason) and I set to work on rewriting and getting back on track.  Phew!

Twyla talks about this exact thing in Chapter 8 of "The Creative Habit: Learn it and Use it for Life".  She calls it "spine". 

Spine, to put it bluntly, begins with your first strong idea.  You were scratching to come up with an idea, you found one, and through the next stages of creative thinking you nurtured it into the spine of you creation.  The idea is the toehold that gets you started.  The spine is the statement you make to yourself outlining your intentions for the work.  You intend to tell this story.  The audience may infer it or not.  But if you stick to your spine, the piece will work.

What a great feeling to have found my spine again.

What are you currently working on?  Re-visit your original spine.  Are you telling the story YOU want to tell? 


  1. Congratulations for finding your way back, Marcie.

  2. Bravo. Critiques make you really think about your work but the choices are still yours to make. Ronnie Eden

  3. Marcie,
    Recently had the same thing happen. Important to always remember that it's your story. Hope all is well. Sounds like it is.

  4. I so needed your post today, Marcie. Thank you! I am working on a manuscript where the story just came to me. It seemed to simple, so pure, so true. I set it down. Then I shared it. This week I'd wanted to send it to my agent, but it's as if I don't care anymore. The story is not mine. It's, as you say, patched together from other's ideas. It's not what I had set out to write, but indeed, it may be more marketable. There's the thing. My critiquers had suggested I change it not only for story, but for marketability or because something might make an editor think of another story and think it too similar and turn it down. Sigh. So much guessing about what others might think. And somewhere in all of this, my pure little story has gotten lost. I am going to go find that first draft right now. Thank you!