Saturday, February 28, 2015

Another Damn Mountain to Cross

I continually wonder if something wonderful figuratively lies over the next river, on the other side of the ridge, beyond the mountains, or across the sea.  Rather than stay the course on developing a long novel I find that I have a thirst for the unique, the novel, the different in my stories.  This must be the same urge that drives me upon the near-completion of one story to immediately seek the beginnings of another.

The itch to set out on a new course usually manifests itself at the threshold of completing a story and builds until my obligation to that piece is finished and the story submitted.  As I've mentioned before, I always have that horrid post-submission feeling that if I had done just one more thing...  But that impulse to revisit soon passes, at least until the rejection arrives.

Any completed story leaves me with the abandoned (but only temporarily, you understand) unfinished short stories and novels doomed to never reach a conclusion.  I rummage through the midden and despair of finding their missing parts, whose missing-ness caused me to temporarily set them aside.  This makes me uneasy, fretful, and nervous.

So in this interregnum I flounder, desperate to find any spark that I can turn into an ember that might ignite the creative blaze.  I examine the ideas that always buzz through my mind and find that none have that magic spark that screams "This is the one, Bud.  Write like the wind, unfettered by convention, kicking aside the troupes and baggage to blaze a new trail across the genre."  At this point I worry that I have become a washed- up hack and only if I can find another mountain to cross I will be happy.  If I don't I'll become hyper-stimulated, doing everything and anything except sitting at the keyboard and writing something.

Like this article.


Saturday, February 21, 2015


Here it is Saturday morning and I haven't yet put in my ninety minutes writing a blog post.  Yeah, despite my promise to turn out a weekly post, I've obviously failed.  I apologize and offer no excuse but forgetfulness.

I could offer an excuse and say that I was excited to learn of two forthcoming contracts for short stories this week, but then I'd have to admit to the rejection that I instantly turned around to the next market on my list.

I could say that I was preoccupied trying to straighten out a complicated plot line whose chronological progression was not smooth, not deliberately you understand, but from aperiodic attempts to bang out the story when interesting scenes occurred to me instead of following a planned route that I usually try to follow.*  As a result I had cause following effect instead of them being the right way around. Also, a number of scenes involving the same characters were not only taking place at the same time, but in completely different places.  Some of them even had different names (consistency is not my strong suit.)

Anyhow, I can't use the screwed up draft as an excuse any more than the snow, the depressingly cold temperatures, or the damned squishy, green hairballs the big cat (18 pounds) spews on the rug where I can step on them in the dark of morning when I stumble to my office to check mail, etc in case there's yet another heart-breaking rejection I have to turn around.

Maybe I can plea that I have too much going on - a terrible thing to happen to someone who has ADD.  At the moment I have various novel drafts floating around, a couple of novel proposals, six short stories, novelettes, and novellas in circulation, and a shitload of partial drafts that I'vepromised myself I will finish, some day soon.  Perhaps.

So that is why I haven't got something this morning.  I hope you will forgive me.

*I blame Jamie Todd Rubin: He must have infected 
me with his pantsing virus at CapClave last year.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

Farewell My Pretty

For me there always comes a thankful moment when the final, final, absolutely (and I mean it, this time!) FINAL draft of a sort story is done and it is loosed to the winds of fate where the vagaries of editorial choice will determine whether it lives or dies.

I know not what other writers might feel at that moment of release, but for me the act of letting go is accompanied by an emotional combination of hope and sorrow:  Hope that the piece might resonate intellectually or emotionally with whoever encounters it and sorrow that I must bid farewell to yet another imagined and narrowly constricted world. There is also a poignant sadness in seeing that a story's probability wave that was once filled with endless possibilities has collapsed into the concrete reality of a finished tale where all the characters have been defined, their compass defined, and their fates predetermined.

As a short story writer I am seldom tempted to return to the worlds I've created, but instead am ever on the search for others that, I am always certain, will prove even more interesting. I enter each new draft as if stepping onto the shoreline shelf of a new continent brimming with promise. In the rush of creation I head into the wilderness, blazing trails and trying to discover the scope and scale of the place before I ever begin to populate it.

As I bring each character into this new world they become imbued with assumptions and develop a role.  As they are moved about I begin to get a sense of place, time, and relationships.  With the introduction of every additional character the interactions of characters and plots begin to create complex pathways lined with subtle undercurrents.  The options of the protagonist's activities becomes ever more constrained at each decision point.  Finally the path he/she follows leads to some sort of epiphany and, later, a denouement.  After multiple bouts of editing my new continent is no longer unknown territory, but has shrunken to a lightly populated village of whom we only know a few citizens.  Once that tale is released to the winds, the bright promise of its new world fades and I start to wonder what might be revealed just over the horizon?

What rough beasts lurk there in wait for my arrival?


Saturday, February 7, 2015

Retracing the Plotland Trail

After serious consideration of all the reviewers' critiques I restructured my recently completed novel to fix a major problem, addressed all the mechanical/technical errors, and wrote narrative and dialogue material that was absent.

That done, I returned to "finish" the novel I've been discussing in the Plotland sagas.

Having taken the time away gave me the perspective I needed to close the major arc of the story and come to a more or less satisfying ending.  Those adjustments were a matter of a few days work before I could return to the painful editing I'd temporarily abandoned earlier. 

If you will recall, I wrote the story in, for me, breathtaking strides, laying down fifty thousand words in a single month, another forty thousand in a second dash, and the final ten thousand over a three-month period of hesitant spurts.  I blogged about all of these efforts in excruciating detail.

The result of my never looking back as I forged ever onward, resulted in a mishmash of conflicting plot lines, misidentified locations, and bestowed upon the principal character a shifting, almost schizophrenic, chameleon-like personality.  On re-reading, I must admit that I must have been very confused as to just who the protagonist might be at times. All in all, the initial exploratory struggles as I stumbled through Plotland resulted in a VERY messy first draft.

With all that in mind I returned to slogging through Portland once more.  Where before I flew through the novel in twenty league boots, now I am forced to crawl on humbled knees, examining each word as I inform the earlier work with the knowledge gained from writing the later portions and my adjustments to the major arc.  Nancy Kress said that no writer knows what their novel is about until it is finished and, where Plotland is concerned, she couldn't have been more right.

Except there's a short story I have to finish first and then...  Maybe I'll do some reading, shopping, or something else so I don't have to take to the Plotland trail once again.