I was reflecting yesterday about the differences between novels and short stories. I am a short story writer who is trying to write a novel, and those differences are important to me.
One of the biggest things is the chance to revise. With a novel, you get the chance to revise to editorial direction in most cases. Sure, you have to get it good enough to get accepted, which is plenty hard to do, but it does not have to be absolutely perfect in all regards. An editor or agent will have some input into the final product. Potential and professionalism in presentation matter most. The editor and/or agent will help get the final high sheen of polish on it.
With short stories, I don’t have that luxury. One chance is all I get, and editorial direction is virtually nonexistent. I have to be my own editor. That is the nature of the product, of course. A short story is, by nature, somewhat ephmeral, and editors just do not have time to invest in working with writers to get it right, especially since so many magazine, e-zine, and anthology editors are either volunteers or get paid a pittance for their time. It’s their job to get the work out the door efficiently and on time.
This is one of the things that makes writing short stories so difficult. I won’t say more difficult than novels, because I know better than that. Both are difficult, just in different ways. It is also neither fair nor unfair, and I am not complaining, just contemplating.
It’s not my choice to write short stories; it’s the way my mind works. I think in small ways, in details — succinct thoughts instead of grand, sweeping visions. It’s the way I’m wired. Is that a gift or a curse? Maybe both at once.
Back to polishing. I have two stories I want to get out the door over the long weekend: “The Dying of the Light” and “What Dreams May Come”. Both good ones. I hope they are good enough.
We haven’t had much trouble from Tropical Whatever-she-is-today Fay. We just caught the outer bands. Stiff wind and drizzle for a couple of days, and we’re looking forward to some pretty heavy rain over the next few as she turns to the northeast and circles around us again. We’ve had around 2 and a half inches of rain from her so far. Nothing like the 2 FEET that places in Florida and South Georgia have had. We count ourselves very lucky indeed.
Not much else going on around here right now. Work is a bear. We lost one of our part-time staffers recently. Since we operate right on the edge as far as staff goes, that makes things interesting for the rest of us. We have some good applicants for the position, though, so we hope to get that filled real soon.
Maybe something noteworthy will happen before long (something good, of course!). Until then, I’ll be around.
Joely Sue Burkhart has been posting lately about her process as she develops a new novella. This is a fascinating series of posts, and I hope you will stop by and read them.
This post was inspired by her post: Plotting: Getting Stuck. In it, she refers to the line from The Dark Knight when Alfred is relating the story of his days in Burma and says “Some men just want to see the world burn.” (Great line, by the way, especially in context.) Joely then takes that line and runs it through the filter of “What’s the worst thing I can do [to my characters]?” Her answer: The world must burn.
Both of these lines struck a deep chord in me. I have been struggling to find the “why” in my villain’s actions in Washed in the Blood for a long time now. What I keep forgetting is that Thomas is a monster. He is not sane. Sometimes he just wants to see the world burn. Sometimes there is no why.
I feel a great flash of clarity now in that regard. Thomas’s actions don’t have to make sense to me, only to him, and he is not sane. In the same way that the Joker’s actions only make sense in his own bizarre world. Thomas is not accountable to the rest of us for his why, only for what he does. Why, in that sense, is meaningless.
So, to steal Joely’s line, Thomas is in charge, and the world must burn.
In other news, I finished a short story over the weekend (1800 words in first draft). I’m still playing with titles, but I am leaning toward “The Dying of the Light”. I like this one a lot. It has magic and a love story and lots of danger. What’s not to like? It still has a couple of rough places I need to sand down, and then I can send it out into the world to find its way.
It’s a good sign when I stop crying and start griping. That means my energy level is rising. I am hoping the medication change is working its miracle.
I had a huge rant that I was going to write, but I decided to let it lie. No need making more enemies than I need. I will let go with one comment: if you are going to write a book about writing and self-publish it, get someone who knows the English language to proof-read it.
Now on to today’s bitch-slap. A local radio station is holding a contest and asking for your biggest headache. This is my response:
My biggest headache is that at least three fourths of my fellow drivers are apparently incapable of operating anything more complicated than a spoon. On most days, I firmly believe that half of them would have trouble with the spoon.
The depression is worse. Way worse. Almost as bad as bipolar depression can be. Almost. I still have some wiggle room, fortunately.
In the midst of this deep black Hell, I find comfort in doing those few things that I can still do. Things like:
- Updating the Vision index. I finally got Issue 46 put in this morning. That’s one more job off my back and one less pressure point for me to worry about.
- Editing. Although composing new words is just not possible right now, correcting grammar and catching typos are things I can still do. I printed off some of my short stories and Chapter 1 of Washed in the Blood for manual editing, which is going well. That helps by giving me a sense that I am actually accomplishing something.
These are a couple of the things I can do. These are the things that keep my mind from straying into very dangerous territory. These things help.
Another thing that really helps are the words of encouragement from my friends. Knowing that someone cares is the most important lifeline of all. Thank you all for your support.
The countdown to 100 rejections continues. I received my 98th this morning.
The editors had some good things to say about the story (“That Others May Live” [The link is to a snippet of a previous version. Some of it has changed since then.]) and pointed out what might be the major flaw. More thought and more work is needed on this one, I think. I think I also know how to fix that flaw. I will be contemplating the technical details on that over the weekend.
In other news, Barbara has awarded me the Brilliante Weblog award. Thanks, Barbara! That is quite an honor, and I appreciate it very much. Now I just have to find seven bloggers to pass it on to. That is going to be tough, considering how many really high-quality blogs I read. It may take a few days to decide.