Writing–Short Story Long

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I started writing a story at the beginning of the month tentatively titled “Gone Missing”. I’d had the idea for a long time for a story that centered around a town where missing people end up, but didn’t really have anything more than that. A few weeks ago the missing piece crashed down from idea-space, smacked in the brain, and I quickly jotted down the whole plot idea before I forgot it. I decided to start writing it as quickly as possible thinking it might be a good project to work on while struggling with my personal essay (that’s another post for another day).

Little did I know what my brain had wrought.

When I get an idea for a short story, it’s typically just that. Short. In fact, it’s been known to happen that what I think will be a decent sized short story turns out to be a piece of flash fiction. I have a tendency toward being short-winded (which sometimes causes me problems making word count during NaNoWriMo, but I digress). It’s been known that I’ve had to go back and add to my short story word count to make the minimum word count for a submission (“Land of the Voting Dead” is a published example of this).

So, I didn’t think anything of it when I started writing “Gone Missing”. I thought it might be on the longer side, like the first few drafts of “At 3:36” that hit between 14 and 20 pages. It was when I passed the 20 page point and realized that I wasn’t even half-way done yet that I knew I had something other than a short story on my hands.

Once it hit forty pages without hitting the climax, I figured that I had something close to a novella on my hands.  It sure as heck wasn’t a short story anymore.

I’ve never written a novella before and really never had the urge to, so it seems fitting that I’d blunder into it on accident. When I begin the revisions of this short story gone long, I’m going to revise it with novella in mind. Just to see what a little intention can do for this long tale.

As it stands, I’m enjoying this pleasant surprise.

I love it when an idea that I think is good (and I think most of mine are) develops into something so much better.

Writing–February Projects

February is being dedicated to the short story now that I’m finished with the initial (and crappy) rewrites of Spirited in Spite. I’ve got this goal of getting 50 rejections this year (more on that next week) and it’s really spurned my creativity in regards to my short stories.

So here’s my short story To Do List this month:

-Revise/Polish “At 3:36” (I’ve already done initial edits in changing it from 3rd to 1st person)

-Revise/Polish “An Active Sleeper” (I think I’ve figured out how to fix this story)

-Revise/Polish “Everybody’s Time” (I wrote it at the end of last month)

-Review “Powerless” and revise/polish if necessary (It’s my first rejection of the year)

-Write “Notorious” (about the survivor of a serial killer)

-Write “Hear It?” (about a person suffering from auditory hallucinations; title may change)

-Submit any stories that are ready.

I’ve got a couple of other stories (“Anniversaries” and an untitled one) that I could revise if I get the time, but I’ve left them off the list for now simply because I’m not sure what to do to them yet. The stories need tweaking to make them work, but I’m not sure what the tweaks should be. I’m sure it’ll come to me.

Ideally, at the end of the month I’ll have at least four stories that can (and hopefully will be) submitted.

Gotta keep producing and submitting if I want those 50 rejections.

Writing–January Projects

January is going to be one busy, crazy month.

I’m rewriting/revising Spirited in Spite for a contest. The deadline is February 5th, but I’m going to try to have the novel done by January 30th. Yeah, considering most of the book has to be rewritten, there is no way this can end well. If I can get it in somewhat readable shape, I’ll be happy.

The contest is in three stages: pitch, excerpt, novel. I will declare this contest a success if I can get past the pitch stage.

Really, since there’s no entry fee, there’s nothing I’ve got to lose by doing this. The hard deadline, the goal, will help keep me focused. I’ve rewritten/revised one other novel, but I didn’t complete it in the sense that I would feel comfortable with sending it. I can’t imagine I can get this book perfect in about 30 days (okay, to be fair it’s more like 45 days since I actually started working on it in December), but what I will end up with when I submit my entry is going to be better and closer to finished than what I’ve got right now. There’s no reason for me to pass up the opportunity to really work on my novel revising skills in a specific time frame and with a definite goal.

There will be stress and frustration. Let’s just hope that it’s not so severe I end up pulling out my hair.

I’ve also got a few short stories that need to be finished from December. “Another Deadly Weapon” is done and ready to go. “How the Night Haunts” will be up on the blog shortly. The rewrites on “At 3:36” ended up separating the piece into two different stories, “At 3:36” and “Powerless”. “At 3:36” needs more work, but “Powerless” just needs some polishing up, I think. “Anniversaries” and the untitled short story need more work, too.

Aside from “Powerless”, every other story is going to wait in favor of the novel revisions. With “Powerless” done, I’ll have four stories (along with “Soul Sister”, “Playing Chicken” (the anthology it was going to be in was canceled), and “Another Deadly Weapon”) to shop around, which I plan to do in earnest. My goal is to submit a lot more short stories this year.

Let’s see how this all works out with my birthday and me being in Chicago for four days. Let’s just see.

Writing–Rejected Motives

It’s time to come clean about Rejected.

While it was true that I self-published those nine stories to gain some experience in self-publishing and marketing myself and that I did want to put those stories to readers on why they thought the stories might have been rejected, I had another motive for publishing those stories.

I spent several years writing, revising, and submitting those stories, wash, rinse, repeat. While working full-time, my commitment to those stories was usurped in favor of a paycheck and the time and energy it took to maintaining it. When I finally decided to make a break for it and try to put together my own income through odd jobs, I came back to those stories and frankly, I didn’t like what I saw.

It’s not that I didn’t like the stories or thought that after several months of ignoring them that they suddenly became horrible. It’s just I was looking to make a new start. I wanted to start this go-round fresh. These stories were not fresh.

So I looked at them, arranged them, packaged them, and published them as much to put them out for people to read and judge them as I did to clear my own writing slate. Fresh start.

Not all of the stories written on that board during that time were wiped from that slate and put into that book. One of them, “Another Deadly Weapon”, was still out, waiting to be judged (it ended up being rejected). “Soul Sister” was finished, but isn’t a horror story, so it didn’t really fit in with the other stories, all of which are horror. “At 3:36” and “An Active Sleeper” were junk and not fit for publishing. So all of those stories ended up carrying over into this new go-round.

The mental effect of publishing those stories has been a great one. Those pressing weight of those stories, needy for homes of their own, aren’t crushing me anymore. They’ve got their home. Now I’ve got room, so to speak, to create new stories to try to house. That mounting pile of rejection has been swept out of my mental house. Now I can get to building a new pile.

I can always publish a sequel.

Writing–December Projects

After spending a month (okay, it was more like three weeks) with a novel, December is short story month.

I have three new ones I’m looking to write. “How the Night Haunts” will be a freebie for a the blog. “Anniversaries” and an as yet untitled one have no definite intention yet, but I imagine I’ll be trying to submit them whenever I deem them ready.

I also have three old ones that are in need of revisions. I need to rewrite “At 3:36” with the new angle and fix the ending of “Another Deadly Weapon” because I’ve never liked it. And then there’s “An Active Sleeper”, which needs something, but I’m don’t know what yet. All I know is I don’t think I’m achieving the affect I want. I’m guessing that one is going to be the big struggle of the month.

All of that, plus working on getting Rejected on Kindle should keep me plenty busy this month.

Writing–The Nightmare of “At 3:36”

Last week I wrote about how some stories seem to come to me as if by magic. That first draft comes so easily and requires very little revision to create a final project.

And then there are stories that are the bane of my very existence, the ones that I struggle with and can never seem to get them right no matter how much I mess with them.

All of my stories get revised. Whenever one of my short stories gets rejected, I always review it to see if there’s anything I can do to make it better. I admit that some stories get more than a little tweak after a rejection. Both “Erin Go Bragh” and “Elevator” (both published in my Rejection book) ended up getting significant rewrites more than once after being rejected. “Such a Pretty Face” required some serious work to get right.

But “At 3:36” is a story of a different beast.

It started off simply enough. I got an image of a scene in my  head, a woman looking out the window, watching as the world stops spinning for forty-five minutes at the same time over several days. I wrote it out, explored that scene, and came up with the first draft. The sticking point was that I didn’t want to explain why the world was stopping. It was just happening and the point of the story wasn’t that the world kept stopping and needed to be fixed (this isn’t a SyFy movie, after all), but how my main character reacted and dealt with this event.

But I couldn’t get it right.

No matter how I cut the story or rewrote it or change it (keeping two basic things intact: the world stopping its spin and the main character’s reaction to it), I couldn’t get the story to work. I couldn’t get it to feel right.

I go a lot by how a story feels. If I feel like I’ve told the story I want to tell and created the effect I wanted to create, then I’m satisfied and I can work on polishing and revising that story to make it the best it can be. I never got to that point with “At 3:36” and it was pretty disappointing.

The other day I was in the shower, letting my mind wonder over things I needed to work on, stories that needed to be told, money that needed to be made, the typical things that run rampant in my brain during my morning showers. It was during these mental gymnastics that the possible solution to my “At 3:36” story woes came to me. I think I’ve finally figured out how to fix this story once and for all.

I won’t know for sure until I actually do it, which won’t be until December due to Nanowrimo, but for the first time, I’m excited about this story.

Considering that I hated it as soon as I was done with the first draft, that’s a big improvement.