Seven years ago I sat between my kids' beds and told them a very sweet story. A story that held the soft tha-thump, tha-thump of a beating heart ready to fall asleep.
That bedtime story became a play which won a developmental opportunity at a theatre. For anyone not familiar with new play development, that means I had a director, actors, theatre space, two dramaturgs, elementary student feedback, and theatre professionals feedback while I wrote and rewrote feverishly for a week, working the play on its feet. All expenses paid.
But when I was finished, I hated my play. It was...in a word...AWFUL.
Somewhere, in the middle of rewriting and advice and work and ideas, I lost my story.
Looking back now I can see multiple influences on my muck of a play, but the largest was a choice of my own. In my desire to perfect my play, I spent so much time listening to everyone else's feedback telling me how to do it I forgot to listen to my story. I twisted and turned it into something it was not and while, technically, it makes sense, the heart of the story is gone.
And here is a hard, honest truth: every writer loses one story. Maybe more.
They take in a comment, an idea, some advice...because conventional wisdom says that's what rewrites are about...and even though their instincts tell them not to listen, they ignore the warnings.
Don't think I'm not a rewrite person. I'm a ten-draft girl who works on computer and paper. I scribble and scrabble my ideas until I understand every choice each character makes. I read aloud and act out scenes. I try things on and take them off faster than clothes in a teen store dressing room.
I'm also a believer in holding the heart of your story close, because you are the one telling it.
I may never get my seven year old story back. I am extremely, rock in my stomach sad when I think about it.
But I still work on it. And when I do I go back to the beginning...because that's when it still had a beating heart.
What have you lost?