Slow Going

I’ve gotten slow.

Normally it shouldn’t take more than two weeks for a novelette. Here I am at a solid week and I still haven’t finished a short story. It’s not because I don’t know how the story goes, I do. It’s not because I’m not working on it, I am. Not really sure about the because, actually, but I’ve got my suspicions.

To begin at the beginning, I’m a member of a flash fiction writer’s group. I’ve been in writer’s groups before. Back in Mississippi we had a very successful writer’s group that produced several published stories and even one Nebula nomination (not me, alas). I hesitated about joining the local group simply because it was flash fiction, which I’ve never been a fan of, but I was curious about the local scene, so I finally put my misgivings aside and very glad I did. It’s a talented bunch and flash has its own challenges. When I think of flash, I think of anything under about 1500 words. Nuh-uh. Here we have 500. Max. Some groups go even shorter.

Start with a challenge word. We write whatever we want, but it has to include the challenge word for the week. Three of those week’s words resulted in new Yamada stories. In 500 words. Still wrapping my head around that one myself. Naturally enough, for each of those I had to leave a lot out and imply a lot more…which meant I naturally wanted to expand them. The first one sold to BCS last spring. Working on the second one now and have plans for the third, but here’s the thing–I am writing very slowly. Yes, now we’re back to the subject of this digression. Which there wouldn’t be room for in flash, but there you go.

I think flash has me in the habit of drafting more carefully. Fine in a rewrite, but it tends to hamper things on a first draft. First draft should be more like careening down a hillside on a bike with no brakes. Even so, I usually end up with a 6-7 hundred word draft that has to be cut to 500. So when I do the same thing on a story that would normally run in the 3000+ word range, that doesn’t work as well. It slows you down.

Now that I’m aware of the problem, I can make a conscious effort to fix it. But of course first I had to become conscious that there was a problem. Which I should have realized when it took me six months to write a novella when I’ve finished full novels in three. Or an entire week to only get two thousand words of what I think will be a 3500 word story, once I’ve put in all the stuff I had to leave out the first time.

Wisdom is uncertain. Learning is optional, but better than not.

Yamada Redux

First a quick couple of notes. The new Yamada story is finished, submitted and sold to Beneath Ceaseless Skies.  The title is “Uzumaki of the Lake” and it might come out this year, maybe autumn or winter. I’ll post it here when I get a solid date. Not counting the last two novels, it’ll be the first new Yamada story in seven years. I guess we both needed a break.

Break may be over though. I’m already mulling another one. We’ll see if it comes together. I hope so. I’ve missed those guys.

I hit a problem in the new novel which was slowing me down considerably, but I think I’ve got a handle on at least the next part, so that goes on.

I used to be a chess player, in that I played in HS and even played on the college team. The highlight of my career was getting a draw in a ten-board exhibition match with an A rated player. The lowest point was a HS tournament where a lighting fixture fell on my head. It was enough to make me wonder if I should consider another hobby. Regardless, I hadn’t even looked at a chess board in years when I stumbled across a couple of chess problems recently and solved them easily. I was never that good at chess problems (for those who don’t know, it’s a board set up so that one side or another can easily win or gain advantage,  if only they can figure out the right move).  It’s got me thinking about playing again.

Time just looks at me and laughs.

 

Both Present and Coming Soon

Both Present and Coming Soon is one way to describe Beneath Ceaseless Skies Special Double Issue #250, in that part of the issue went live on April 26th, containing stories by K.J. Parker and Bonnie Jo Stufflebeam. Part 2 will go live on May 3rd (Thursday) with the balance of the issue, which is “Silence in Blue Glass” by Margaret Ronald (you gotta love that title) and “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” which is the longest title I’ve ever used for any story, so unlikely anyone will remember it. Just remember this coming Thursday. The link is up there.

This is the third story in the adventures of Jing, Mei Li, and Pan Bao, which officially makes it a series, by my definition, though I’m at the point of wondering where it’s going to go, as in remain short stories or eventually morphing into novels, the way Yamada did. Plus I’m wondering just how long I really should spend in 5th C BC Warring States Period of what will eventually become China. There are other things I need to write and only so many usable hours in the day. Not to mention we’ve started yet another major DIY renovation project with its own demands.

I’ll sort it out, which is just another way of saying it isn’t sorted at all, yet.

DIY and Way

The taxes are done, which is probably my biggest accomplishment for the week, aside from taking advantage of spring to start demo on the F.R.O.G. (that’s Free Room Over Garage, or at least that’s what the real estate lady said when we bought the place). It was an apartment at one time, then a sort-of workshop, with some really crappy bench tops and shelves that all had to come out, plus a rotted floor (because the back section of the space is a former kitchen with a wooden floor over concrete, which naturally wicked up water and rotted).

When it’s all done it should make a nice treatment/meditation space for First Reader. It’s the last(?) of the renovation projects we had in mind for our interior spaces. Over the years I’ve learned a lot more about DIY than I ever wanted to, but needs as needs must, or something like that, and I’m sure I’ll learn a lot more doing this one. Which, if I’m really lucky, I’ll never have to use again, since we’re not planning on moving once we get this one how we like it.

Barring alarums and excursions, “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village,” the third in my Daoist series should be out in Beneath Ceaseless Skies #250, in the latter half of this month. On a parenthetical note, this will be, officially, at ten words, the longest title I’ve ever used, beating out “On the Road to the Hell of Hungry Ghosts” by one word, and both “Idle Conversation at the End of the World” and “Golden Bell, Seven, and the Marquis of Zeng” by two.

Any change to the schedule, I’ll be sure to note it here.

Process

I’m a little tardy with this today, but at least I have a good excuse—I was working through the editor’s notes on “An Account of the Madness of the Magistrate, Chengdhu Village.” Did anyone out there think the job was done once the story was written? Heh. Quite often, that’s the easy part. Then there’s marketing, deciding where you’d like a story to be published—and no, the answer is NOT “anywhere that will take it.” You have to be picky about those things, even from the beginning. If your first venue turns you down, then you consider where next, but only then. If you believe in your work, you want a showcase, not just a venue.

Then, if you’re lucky enough to get the story placed where you want it, odds are more than likely there will be galleys, probably electronic these days, and it’s time to revise the story again, this time taking into account where an editor thinks it can be improved. You can agree or not—it’s your story—but be very clear on what you’ll accept and what you won’t, and keep your ego out of it. The goal on both sides is to make the story the best it can possibly be, and there WILL be things you missed, points in the story where you didn’t consider all the implications of your text. Keep an open mind, but fight—politely—for your vision. A good editor will not try to turn the story into something you didn’t intend. She is your ally, not the enemy.

And, when all that is done and out of the way, comes the waiting. Again, though this time it’s for the story to be published. As with submissions, the time passes easier when you don’t have your eggs in that one basket. Write the next one.

Time to take my own advice.