April is nearly over, and for the past few months, I’ve slowly journeyed through the manuscript of my forthcoming short-story cycle: Measuring Time & Other Stories. Rereading each story, making revisions large, medium, and small, I’m revisiting as well the writing adventure of each story. In preparation for the book’s release, I’ll be sharing more about the development of individual stories. Today, I’m writing about the title piece (and the oldest story): “Measuring Time.”
This piece originated in a fiction workshop I took with author Lin Enger during 2003. I was in my second year as an MFA student, and I viewed myself primarily as a poet. Nevertheless, I was drawn to short stories, wanting to improve as a fiction writer. When the semester was over, I viewed it as a stand-alone piece, not anything longer than ten pages.
In 2006, I spent January through March writing a novel-length version of the piece, with the initial story functioning as the first chapter. (I’m still not sure what prompted my decision to expand the story.) Over the next three years, I completed three more full-length drafts of Measuring Time, each one around 50,000 words. Despite all of that work, I still wasn’t sure about it even though I’d lived with the characters for half a decade.
Then in December 2009, riding the excitement of finishing my coursework for fall semester as a third-year PhD student, I opened the fourth draft after not looking at it for half a year. I reread the draft, and in one of the most clear-headed writing sessions I’ve ever experienced, I started cutting sections of the manuscript. After a couple of hours, the manuscript dropped from 50,000 words to under 25,000.
I’d finally found the core of the story while ruthlessly cutting sections that suddenly appeared superfluous. I was euphoric. I had figured it out. As a novella, the story underwent several more adjustments as it became the anchor for my doctoral dissertation, and after that, I reworked it as a part of an expanded story collection.
All of this to say that when the book is released later this year from Wiseblood Books, it will have been 16 years from that initial draft of “Measuring Time.”