Thursday, May 29, 2008

Get on with it

I'm not sure why but three times in the last two months a story has descended on me almost complete - ideas, settings, dialogue, scenes, structure - the whole lot has bubbled up from some hidden spring.

It has happened before but not with such intensity nor for such a sustained spell. Perhaps the planet is passing through a region of space loaded with inspirons like the Perseids. Dunno. All I do know is that I've produced two or three tales in a very short space of time.

I don't mention this to disingenuously suggest that I am struggling under the burden of my talent which often leaves me breathless and marvelling at my own splendour. And I don't really want to complain about it though stories which arrive in this way are no less clear of problems than ones that have to be wrung out word by word. They still need honing to do their job properly. Lots of the words that look stellar in the light of the early dawn as I scribble them on the paper I keep by my pillow fade during the editing process. Lots get cut out.

It has to be said though that I feel something has changed. SDL, my touchstone for these issues, said that in his writing there came a time when he felt he had some kind of breakthrough and his writing improved a lot after that even though outwardly it read very much the same. I don't know if I've gone through the same process but it feels a bit freer and the sense I have on what needs to be done to a story seems deeper. Time will tell whether that will translate into published stories, or glory, sales.

But as Ze Frank and the level-headed Mur Lafferty have said ideas can very seductive. "Brain crack" is what Ze Frank calls them. I keep wanting to hare off and chase those ideas down instead of getting on with finishing the story I'm currently working on. It's all too easy to keep chasing ideas, which pretty much always look brilliant, than it is to get on with the graft. But it's been said that the difference between writers and everyone else is that writers write, others don't. I guess to that you can add that one similarity between writers and everyone else is that they have ideas, the difference is that writers ignore a lot of them.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Killing to be kind

I've not written that many stories (19 for those keeping count) but I've recently had to carry out the unpleasant task of pensioning off a couple of the older ones. I've had to do it because I've run out of places that I want to submit them - though that's not to say there aren't more places where they could go.

The decision comes about for a couple of reasons. I typically have about 8-10 stories circulating at any one time. I could have more out there in the ether but the administrative and mental overhead of keeping those flying is about the limit of what I can cope with. I also have a lot of respect for the stories and submitting them willy nilly anywhere and everywhere would not feel right. It has to be said that not all markets are created equal - I'm aiming for a particular section of the genre media and going beyond that would dilute that focus. (Can you dilute a focus? Hmm, perhaps not.)

Anyhoo some of the stories that I've pensioned off are pretty old and were first written three years ago. I'd like to think that I've got better since then so they are not the best advocates for what I can do.

But I look back at affection with those stories even if they are slightly tarnished in memory because they have racked up so many rejections. Mothballing them does not end their usefulness though. They are peppered with useful phrases and ideas that can find a home in another story - one key idea from the retirees became catalyst for a flash story that has been accepted.

There are some that I'm planning to re-write too as I really like the setting and framing idea that got me to dream them up in the first place.

Plus I learned something while writing them and they kept my name in front of editors that I am trying to impress and convince to publish my stuff. Given that, so far, I'm keeping to my stated ambition to write a story a month losing one or two is not so bad. Though I'm going to face a real crisis if any of my work gets published as that will punch a hole in the numbers available to send out.