Sunday, 22 May 2011

Of Pestilence and Stories That Don't Know Their Place

Bleurgh. Pity me. I went to bed on Wednesday night with the vague sense of a cold in the works, and I've been down for the count ever since. It is surely not normal to be pestilent for this long. And I also have a hyperactive puppy that I can't get out of the house to walk and who, for reasons best known to his creator, is approximately the size of a small caravan but as intelligent and empathetic as a brick. A particularly stupid brick. That has suffered a recent head trauma.

However, there's only so long a virulent snot-fest can keep a writer down, and I've been taking advantage of the fact that, while the flesh might be weak, the brain is only partially marinated in excessive bodily secretions and it's not like I have any kind of better excuse to put off washing the damn dishes. So I've been trying to work on the ultimate goal again this weekend, and I've got a couple of poems sent off for a competition and I've also identified a couple of magazines who are about to bear the full force of my enthusiastic interest. The problem is that my absolute favourite short story at the moment, and the one I really, really want to share with everyone, is well over 5,000 words long, which kind of puts it around double the maximum length of most short story competitions and well into SCARY MANIAC!!!1!1! territory for a lot of magazines as well. It's not my fault. My characters wouldn't shut up. And then the protagonist insisted on looking for information in the wrong places for a while (for reasons of pacing, if you can believe it: I swear, the pacing was necessary!) and before I knew it I was pushing six grand. I wonder if other writers have this problem, pacing-wise? I read my work back over and it often feels like I'm rushing to the good bits so I stick in more exposition in case my readers feel like I'm cheating. I'm absolutely certain that's the opposite of the way it's supposed to be - didn't Stephen King once advocate chopping a third out of your manuscript in the editing process? If anything, I tend to add another ten percent. Oops.

So, being as how it's a Sunday and all that, and the world didn't end last night (super yay! Snark) I also tried to get moving on another short story that I've been working on now for well over two years. Although admittedly there's been a gap of, well, two years where I wasn't doing any work on it at all. So... yeah. But I'm not used to short stories giving me this much grief. Usually, what happens is: I get an idea, I think about it for a little while, and then I sit down at the computer and I make that idea my bitch over the course of a few hours. Voila: the creative process at work. Except this time, I feel like the story is making me its bitch instead. But I persevere, because I do think this could be quite good. I'm already a little bit disturbed by the vaguely sinister direction it's taking (which is incredibly tricky to write, since I'm using an unreliable narrator who doesn't think the situation is sinister and... yeah. I can see why I Bravely Ran Away last time) and I happen to know that the hook scared seven kinds of shit out of me when I... All right, I dreamt it. It's based on a dream I had. But really: you should see the kind of weird-ass, messed-up shit I dream sometimes. Actually, you shouldn't. Except in this case. And maybe one or two others.

Oh, and the thesis still sucks, but my lovely friend and former thesis-advisor has given me permission to turn a cold shoulder upon it for a few days. And, in the words of the great philosopher Terry Pratchett (whose career I unashamedly want), hate is just love with its back turned. I do love ya, baby. You just need to stop bitching at me for a while and make me remember why...

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