An exercise in creative writing

Melissa Stagnaro

When people hear I’m a writer, they almost instantly assume I mean of the fiction variety. But that’s never really been my forte. Sure I wrote my share of stories when I was a school kid. I always loved creative writing exercises. As I got older, I started concentrated more on essays, articles and, on occasion, poetry.

From time to time, I toyed with the idea of trying my hand at fiction. Who hasn’t, after all. But as for aspiring to write the Great American Novel? Not high on my list.

Which is why it was something of a stretch for me to sit down to write a Ghastly Ghost Story. I literally agonized over it for hours – easily 5 times as long as I would normally have spent on a piece of that length. It was a little slow going in the beginning, when I was working on developing the idea itself. I was definitely kicking myself for volunteering the ES crew for the task. (Oops, I don’t think I ever admitted to my coworkers that it was my idea. Sorry, guys.)

But once my creative juices started flowing, I totally got into it. A little too much, apparently, considering my first draft was about 600 words over our limit of 1,500.

Normally I don’t mind editing my work. I actually like the process of  cleaning and tightening things up, putting a pretty little polish on it all. This, however, was particularly painful. I had to take out all the good stuff – the snarky dialog and colorful descriptives – in order to deliver my plot in the specified word count.

I was pretty happy with the result, being that it was my first foray into fiction. But I was entirely unprepared for how anxious I’d be to see it published.

Now, in my 2 plus years at The Evening Sun, at least a 1,000 articles, briefs, columns and blogs have appeared in print or online under my by-line. Not one of them – or any of the magazine articles I have to my credit – gave me as much angst as this ghastly little ghost story.

The only other time I’ve ever gotten so nervous about my writing is during a poetry reading.

Ridiculous, I know.

Perhaps I was worried it would reveal about my penchant for urban fantasy novels or my addiction to the series “Charmed.” (I’m a reformed addict, really. I no longer watch reruns of the show obsessively, having switched my allegiance to NCIS, but I do follow @Alyssa_Milano on Twitter. She rocks.)

Of course, it’s all moot now. It’s out there in the ether for all to read. So far I haven’t gotten too much ridicule, thankfully. But then, my brother Dennis hasn’t gotten his hands on it yet. (He takes his role as critic VERY seriously.)

I hope people enjoyed it, of course, but it’s not like I was expecting to land a book deal out of it. (Not that I’d, ahem, turn one down or anything). No, the purpose of my little fiction-writing exercise was to encourage, or perhaps even inspire, others to do the same for our Ghastly Ghost Story competition. The deadline for which is fast approaching. Don’t miss out on the ghoulishly good fun!

For details on the Ghastly Ghost Story contest, and to read my story, “Fisher House,” visit

Happy Haunting!

Follow me on Twitter … @evesunmelissa.