The relationships of writing
I think of myself as a serial monogamist when it comes to writing. I write novels, primarily one at a time. I am almost never not working on a novel.
This is one of the reasons why short stories are so difficult for me.
First, I tend to think large. So my stories all want to grow up to be novels. It’s hard to keep pace and focus for me in a short piece, they are either very short 2,000 +/- word vignettes or 10K behemoths that I can’t sell because they outweigh most markets.
Second, I always feels like I am cheating on my novel. I know that’s super weird, but I think I need to learn to be polyamorous with my writing. Or at least, learn to appreciate a good one-night-stand with a short story and not freak myself out that I have somehow taken some energy or mojo away from my main work. I need to learn how to have a good fling.
This might be easier if I were able to write a decent short story to being with. Not saying I can’t write them, as in when I wrote them they don’t turn out well. When I write them, they turn out very well. Or at least fairly well. I’d say I am doing damn well for someone without the benefit of a stint at Clarion.
It’s the writing part…well the coming-up-with-an-idea part. I can’t just say, “I’m going to sit down and write a short story tonight!” Because trust me, when I do, they suck. And I mean they stink on ice. Ask Ferrett, he’s read some. Head-shaking, whistle-through-your-teeth bad.
But when the inspiration hits me, it’s like first love. I’m all flushed and twitterpated and can think of nothing but this story, screw that novel I’ve been slaving away on and OMGthisstory! Which has happened…about a dozen times. Every short story I have written was the product of one of these brilliant strokes of inspiration. When that head-over-heels I’m-in-love thing doesn’t happen…my output is best used to line bird cages. I don’t even shred it for packing material, in case a stray sentence got loose and someone were to read the damn thing. I mean just ugh.
So, where am I going with this? (also, why I don’t write many blog posts these days…)
I know the adage, if you want to write, write. But it gets frustrating churning out schlock when I know I have actual skill and talent. I went for years just not writing short pieces unless I had that flash of insight and inspiration. And they were good and then people started asking me to submit to their anthologies and their magazines. And then I started having deadlines, and then I started not sending in work because I had nothing to send. (Note: This has never happened when I was invited, I usually came up with something for them, crappy or brilliant, I sent them SOMETHING. But usually I had enough time to sit around for a few days [or a few weeks] and beat my head into a wall before it randomly came to me unbidden- at an inopportune time like out walking the dogs, or in the shower, or while lecturing in class, or dozing off- the usual times when one’s mind is at rest and the stress does not impede the idea.)
My question, how to seduce the ideas so they’ll come hang out with me and make beautiful
love words with me without acting like a creepy plot-stalker and ending up with crappy stories? Aside from think about short stories a lot. Like a lot, a lot. Like almost exclusively. And where does that lave the novel I am working on??
My actual current plan is to get my current story sent off to market #1 (it had a pretty serious revision and the good folks at Beneath Ceaseless Skies are willing to give it another look), then send it to market #2 if BCS says no again. I have been strongly encouraged to work on something else for BCS because, bless him, Scott Andrews really likes my work and I promised him two stories this year. Two stories making it to print, by his reckoning. He drives a hard bargain! But I thought this would be a good new year’s resolution because 1) I want more short work out there, it’s good for name recognition and growing the brand, 2) I want to get into SFWA this year and shorts sold to pro markets looks like a good course since I am 1/3 of the way there already, and 3) I’m much more likely to get noticed for some of the major awards with short work than I am with my novels (only because my novels are by and large from smaller presses or currently in queue with a publisher or not yet published). And 4) I hate hate HATE being good at something yet sucking at it at the same time.
And at that point, I take the rest of the month off to sew. I have beaucoups sewing projects requiring my timely attention. Some of which are going to pay me.
So, I figure this is the writing equivalent of telling the other party how I feel then leaving it be and waiting for him/her to call.
Let’s just hope I can follow through once the call comes (I usually can, thank heavens!) and that my current novel (stalled out in plot anyway) doesn’t get too terribly jealous.
I won’t tell if you won’t! (What happens in a Word document stays in a Word document…?)