I finished the 2nd draft of a short story today. It’s so weird I don’t even want to get into what it’s about. It’ll either be great or ruin my relationships with everyone who reads it. But then I feel this way for all my favorite stories — when I was done with the King story, I felt exhilarated and so, so scared.
The new one’s an interesting example of how writing goes, too. I had the inspiration for the story randomly, let it simmer, wrote some ideas out, and then at night, when I was ready to go to sleep, I’d figure out a chunk of plot, or a way to handle something. And it ended up going like this:
Day 1: 500 amazingly painful words, 300 easy words
Days 2-5: 1000 words a day, each day ending with bitter doubt and fear that early readers will have me killed
Day 5: send out query to recruit early readers.
Day 6: chicken out of sending that draft out. Spend the day re-writing the story (as Erin gets increasingly testier about not seeing it). Send out.
One of the things I most miss about Clarion and having a weekly is the sense of rhythm. Each week, you have maybe one, two days to kick around concepts, and then it’s got to come together. Every idea has to be good enough to justify the pain it’ll take to implement. And the longer it takes to come up with an idea, the faster and simpler the implementation. Every week you produce and move on.
So contrast this to another short I’ve been trying to write for ages. It goes
Abandon in frustration
Pick up, re-write
Throw across room
Start from scratch
At some point, I’m convinced I’ll be sitting around and something will come to me that’ll make it work, and it will be all the better for having tried it so often. But maybe not.
I’m reminded of this story I read, about a pottery class. Half the class was graded on the sheer weight of pots they created in the class, straight volume, and the other half only had to produce one pot all term. The ones that had to do only one spent their time wondering what a perfect pot would look like, and the other half cranked out pot after pot, and at the end of the term the volume half were producing far higher quality work and doing it quite fast, while the other side had but one crappy pot each to show.
There’s a lot of that in writing. The ability to turn out a good story depends not just on the ability to think of an idea, but in turning that into a story and do it reasonably fast. The faster you can try and fail at writing stories, the faster you can learn what works and doesn’t. But you can’t admit defeat and give up, either.
500 words a day. Even an idiot can write 500 words a day. So I do. Sometimes it pays off, and I turn some anxious, terrifying work over to my friends.