It’s been a while since I last posted but things have been busy. Since Oct 7th I received 9 rejections (one piece rejected twice) and mailed out 11 pieces. That brings my race score to 25.
I also passed some milestones this week, with the 75th rejection of the year coming in and the 100th mailing of the year going out.
I still also have one piece being held by an editor for possible publication. No clue when I will hear back about that, but it’s for a market that pays professional rates.
I mailed off Short Story #31 of my 2011 Short Story Challenge several days ago, a short strange one about a character with phantom limbs.
I have also finished a first draft of the short novel at about 31,000 words as well as a first draft of a 5,000 word short story that I was thinking of submitting to an anthology call. So, lots of words coming through the keyboard, but finding time to do some editing (as opposed to producing new words, which has been my priority) has been a challenge.
I started a new piece this week as well where I decided to have fun and follow explicitly the directions that Dean Wesley Smith gave us for one excercise at the June 2011 Short Story workshop when he was none too pleased about the results of a previous assignment about story setting:
VOMIT SETTING ONTO THE PAGE.
So I went and did just that and have a 2,500 word start on another story where the first six pages do nothing but layer in a creepy setting bit by bit, filtered through the viewpoint and opinions of the main character. I rather like how it has turned out so far.
The reason to “vomit setting onto the page” is that, as an early-stage professional writer, it is too easy to focus on plot and other story aspects and leave the setting too thin. That leaves you with a white-room story full of fake details (“the bench” vs. “the grubby oak-planked bench capped with wrought-iron finials,” for example). This also brings particular and concrete details into your story that evoke the five senses.
On this new story, I’m admittedly a bit stuck on where it will go next. But I have a solution for that, as well, thanks again to another bit of advice that Dean pearled out during the dinner on the last night of the workshop.
One of the students asked Dean how to flesh out a big idea, how to get going on it, how to develop it to its full potential. Dean had a great, short answer that might seem trite at first glance but actually encapsulates a lot of wisdom:
“Just start typing.”
The student looked at him incredulously and started to rephrase the question. To which Dean said, “No, really, just start typing.” His point was that the place to do world-building is at your keyboard, with probes and bore-holes drilled in the form of stories. If a particular story veers off of your big idea, well so what. Let your subconscious, creative mind take you where it will, finish off that story, and take another whack at it with your next story. And then the next. And the next. Soon you’ll understand your “big idea” better, and through the process of exploration in story form, likely come up with many twists and turns and improvements on your idea that you never would have otherwise.
Now, I may have little track record as a fiction writer but I’ve worked in advanced R & D for my entire professional career and so I could see the wisdom in Dean’s words. It’s way, way to easy to paralyze yourself into inaction because an idea seems to big or too difficult or too vague in its present form. You just have to build stuff, try things out, and gradually via exploration-through-experience something interesting will come out of it– as long as you trust yourself and permit yourself to have some whiffs along the way.