does not describe me fully
it is where to start

Saturday, August 7, 2010

A Short Story Took Over My Life

An idea about a woman in conflict came to me, and I immediately recognized its potential for the basis of a short story. I was concerned, though, about taking precious time away from my work-in-progress novel, which already had to compete for time with daily life obligations.

It’s a short story, I told myself. With a brief leave of absence, I could write the story and then return to my novel.

I immediately banged out a reasonably complete 1200-word story. I liked what I saw. It had all the necessary components of a story: conflict, setbacks, resolution, etc. I had even created multi-dimensional characters.

The next morning I read the story with a sinking feeling. It was a good story, but incomplete. So I added emotional shading to my protagonist. I printed the new version, read it, and thought, Great! Then I went off to take care of Life.

The story was there when I approached my computer the next morning. This time, I discovered that the order of the paragraphs (read action) was clumsy. I fixed all that, printed the story, liked what I saw, and moved on to Life.

I arrived the next morning with the intention of researching potential markets for the story. Except I read the story again and discovered that I didn’t like this adjective here or that verb there and, by the way, the woman’s husband had no sympathetic qualities. This meant that the reader’s identification with the female protagonist was in jeopardy because what worthy woman would fall in love with such a flawed man? That happens all the time in real life, I know, but as the writer I had to communicate why she was attracted to him. So I worked on adding dimensionality to the husband. And, yes, printed the story, liked it; you must be seeing a pattern here.

I won’t describe in more detail how this process has repeated itself for the last three weeks, during which time I have not written a single word for my novel. I finally achieved, though, a 1985-word short story which looks to be in more-than-decent shape. And, yes, I feel this way after successive morning readings.

I still couldn't get back to my novel, though. I now had to allot my writing time quota to thinking about where to send my newly minted short story. I opened my literary review files, only to be blasted away by the sheer number of potential reviews to which I could submit my story. Mind you, that master list has long since been culled to include only what I consider to be suitable/desirable markets for my type of writing. That was when I realized that this part of the process was going to take more time away from ... yeah, my novel.

I asked myself if I even remembered anymore what my novel characters were doing and realized I had better reread the work-in-progress novel to find out. I started doing that, only to discover that there is so much to fix, it's not funny. So now I am tearing apart the early chapters of the WIP novel. In other words, I still am not writing new material. At least, though, I am in novel mode, I console myself.

But I haven’t sent out my short story yet! And Life Obligations are grumbling about being ignored. OMG. Isn’t this supposed to be fun?


Judy Croome said...

LOL< Judith, I hear those grumbling Life Obligations a lot too! And it's great that you've written a short story - your main story is clearly in need of a rest camp, and will be bubbling away in your unconscious working hard. When you get back to it, it will be with a fresh eye and new ideas!

Watch my blog for free autographed book copies to celebrate Women's Day on Monday, 9th August

Sun Singer said...

Yep, this sounds familiar. Apparently, the Universe wants you to write the story.


Judith Mercado said...

Judy and Malcolm, I posted this because I figured just about every writer out there could probably relate. And,Judy, you're right. Probably the best thing I did was to stay away from the novel for a while. Returning sure opened my eyes. Malcolm, I hope you're right about the story. I've just sent it out to some literary reviews. Let's hope someone likes it.

melissashook said...

Oh, this is wonderful....such a good description...thanks

Kathryn Magendie said...

*laughing* - sometimes it's not fun - sometimes writing is plain ole WORK! But, it's the best job I've ever had - the only one that didn't make me want to gut myself gutless with boredom!

Mayowa said...

This is why I'm very wary of writing other things while working on a novel. The downside is that I have terribly low output as far as creative works go.

My downside is your upside. More output, more work to put out into the world, more ways to gain readership and dinero.

Great post.

Judith Mercado said...

Melissa, Kathryn, and Mayowa, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing your throughts. I value your comments.

A Cuban In London said...

In a certain way this post is a short story in and of itself. :-) Maybe that was the tale you always wanted to write in the first place! It's always great to read about the trials and tribulations of writers. Your craft is unique and for that I tip my hat to you.

Good luck with the story.

Greetings from London.

Judith Mercado said...

Cuban, welcome back from holiday. And thanks for helping me see this post as a short story.

Nevine said...

Is this the story of my life, or what? I tell you, Judy, it's like a vicious circle. Just when you think you're done with something, something new pops into your head. I have several short stories in progress (full-length works... not the stuff I publish on my blog) and every time I think I've got one finished and polished and ready, I force myself to set it aside for a day and when I go back and read it I think, "What? This needs to be fixed... and this... and this has to go... and this has to move." Yes, you've described it so well!

And with life always coming in the way, things don't really get any easier, do they? But still, it is fun. Yes, it is. Admit it, Judy.


Judith Mercado said...

Nevine: You're right. It's fun. Can't actually imagine life without it.