We’re now into the final third of the year, and it’s about this time on the calendar that I begin to reflect on what I’ve done since this twelve month period began…
… but it makes for a depressing read, so I’ll leave that alone for a while.
I spent one afternoon this week sending stories out for (potential) publication. And while it’s true that one of them came back as a rejection before I had even finished up for the day, I still see every attempt to get my work out there as a positive one.
I never send a story out into the wild just to make up the numbers, because the only person who is really interested in those numbers is me. So, on the other end, when that response comes in, I’m always hopeful for good news, no matter how long it’s been since I’ve had an acceptance. And yes, it has been a while.
My standards are (admittedly) quite high and, although my recent output probably doesn’t justify that bar, I have had many pieces published in non-paying markets over the years, and I think I deserve to be a little further along the food chain by now. As a result I have neglected to even look at a lot of markets that may want to carry my stuff simply because they aren’t going to pay me. Occasionally there is a non-paying market that grabs my attention, but not very often.
Anyway, I’m going to have a soft reboot of my writing to give things a shake-up. I was going to wait until the turn of the year, but that is such an arbitrary time for resolutions, so I’m just going to do it now instead.
I don’t exactly know what I mean by that, or how this soft reboot is going to manifest itself, but I am going to do something.
In an effort to write good short stories I’m going to look towards one of the masters, Stephen King – a guy who has written a fair number of them.
Over the coming months I will be reading and offering my opinion about every short story King has had published in the six collections that are out there: Night Shift (1978), Skeleton Crew (1985), Nightmares & Dreamscapes (1993), Everything’s Eventual (2002), Just After Sunset (2008), and The Bazaar of Bad Dreams (2015).
That’s over 100 stories – some of which I have either forgotten since I came across them many years ago, or not read in the first place. I know not all of them will be good, but I’m sure every one will give me something to say.
… and hopefully I can get it done before he comes out with another anthology.
I have never really had a writing routine. It’s just not the kind of thing I have ever been able to pigeon-hole into a specific window. It’s a good idea, and certainly I’d like to be able to frame my writing in that manner – for consistency, if nothing else – but I have always taken a more adhoc approach to my words.
I think my early resolution for 2020 is to manufacture some time when I can actually sit down and do my stuff regularly, because at the moment I’m all over the place and nothing is really getting done. Definitely not as much as there should be.
When I do write, it’s often pretty good, but I’m just not happy with the volume of the output.
It dawned on me recently that the synopsis for my novel Slipwater is perhaps not up to scratch. That must be the reason nobody has picked it up yet. I mean, it can’t be the story, right?
In fact, after looking into it a little more it seems that what I have written is not really a synopsis at all. It’s more like the blurb you would read on a dust jacket, and that’s not what they are looking for.
It’s hard to condense an 88,000 word novel into 250 words, and in doing so I also have to spoil what happens as well. I understand the editors and agents want to know what is in store for them should they read on beyond the initial bunch of pages I’ve sent them, but a lot of the excitement from reading comes from not knowing what to expect.
I can’t help but think that by exposing the details of my novel up front I do the telling of the story a disservice, which in turn reduces the thrill of turning the page.
Still, if that’s what they want I best get it done.
This week I wrote the first new material for The Ballad of Martha Brody that I have done in years. It’s not much, and it was more than a little spontaneous, but it does mean the story is on my mind.
At the start of the year I mentioned that I was considering going back to this story, and I was… but since that time other pieces have taken precedence. Now I’m ready to – at the very least – include it in my rotation of stories.
The first thing I have to do is find a place within the narrative for the orphaned chapter I wrote some time ago, since the last draft was finished in 2013. After that I need to figure out if this thing can be stretched to a novel (without compromising the story I’m telling), or if it should remain in that literary wasteland where all the other novellas reside.
Well it is finally done. It took a lot longer than I had anticipated, but after powering through the rough patches, Flowers For Someone Else is finished. Perfect? No. But it’s done. It’s not what I had expected at the beginning, but stories rarely stick to the blueprint.
At 3100 words, it is the longest new story I have written for almost five years. Every time I tried to wrap it up the words just kept on coming – not necessarily a bad problem to have, but I was starting to worry I had forgotten how to climax… in a manner of speaking.
Flowers For Someone Else is also the only tale (I can remember) that I’ve done in second person, so that’s a nice one to strike off my creative writing bucket list.
I had every intention of trying to get some writing done when I was away on holiday last week, but that never came to anything. We were up early every morning, and by the time we got back to the caravan each day after our adventures (and I blogged about it) I was getting tired and it was getting late.
But I have got on with it this week and things are moving along nicely with Flowers for Someone Else. I am sure it will be finished before too long… if I could get out of this habit that I can’t seem to shake.
Every time I open the Word document to carry on with it I go back to the start and begin going through the story meticulousy again. I don’t really know why. Sure, it means the first half of it reads very well, but it also means I haven’t spent too much time with how it all turns out. I guess a psychologist would tell me it’s because I am scared to reach the end. Maybe that’s true because other than my Jack and Patrick stuff I haven’t done much new this year.
But, I’ll work through it, and this time next week I should have another story to show for it.