Writing is easy: All you do is sit staring at a blank sheet of paper until drops of blood form on your forehead. -- Gene Fowler

Monday, March 15, 2010

In Which I Tangle With A Short Story

I decided to sit down and get to work on my short story, temporarily called 'Prediction'. I pulled up the file I'd been working on last week, only to discover it wasn't the story, but my notes on the story. I poked around in my storage locations, ran a search, and came up with about half the story. I found a file that ended in the middle of a word. Fortunately, I had printed out the page I'd completed last week, but I had printed it before I'd made the last change, so the entire second half of the page is outdated. And the new stuff is nowhere to be found. I remember the gist of it, of course. But having the file go missing is not something that fills me with confidence. Lesson here, kids: just as in computer games, the rule is: Save Early, Save Often. Le sigh.

This is the first short story I've attempted in some time. I'm going at it with the clear idea that it is a short story and therefore must be tight, specific, and precisely aimed. And I'm floundering. I'm also finding myself attempting to revise my story as I'm writing it. I'm trying not to, but my habit is to spread out, to go on about things and explore people and places at length. I could do so and then trim off the excess later, but I fear running into something I like too much to cut. For cutting is a painful and abhorrent process, as I'm discovering with my novel editing (which I've been conveniently avoiding recently).

I have the story all planned out, beginning to end. It's a solid story idea, I feel, but the devil's in the details. I'm finding myself wanting to really bring the setting to life, to make the reader feel like s/he's there. But this is a short story. I don't know how much room I have. There's a lot of debate about the length of a short story. A maximum length of anywhere from 7,500 to 20,000 words is Wikipedia's advice, though if I'm looking to publish I'd be far wiser to worry about what my market's definition is.

I'm not going to go into markets right now. There are far too many, and anyway, I've got to have a story, preferably a salable one, before I need worry about where to sell it.

The only answer I have right now is the obvious one: Write. Even if I end up tangling myself up, I'll have written something from which I can hope to carve a sleek story in the coming weeks.

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