It turns out I can write a first draft in a day

Of a short story, that is. Where I pretty much had the idea already, and, OK the first page too. And it’s not very long (3000 words). But still. Thanks, Ken, for telling me you can write a shortish story in four hours. That got me off my ass.

Next week: the editing session from hell will begin. It turns out that when I’m creating I don’t even look at the screen, just stare out the window, imagine the scene and touch type. And in those circumstances, I touch type really poorly. Some of what’s there isn’t even spell checkable, my friends. (People who know me will know that I touch type pretty well when I’m actually LOOKING at the screen/keyboard.)

The Story I’m Not Writing. You’re Welcome

I saw this call for submissions today for an anthology about were-creatures. Thinking it might be fun to write a story about a werecat, since I’ve had twenty years experience with cats, I promptly plotted a story that no one wants to read. But it made Jim laugh, so I’ll share.

There is a man who is a werecat. Once a month he turns into a cat, and being a proper tomcat, goes out and gets himself in all manner of trouble, always waking up to find himself bloody and bruised. Eventually he decides this can’t go on, so he does the logical thing. He goes to the doctor and gets himself castrated. Now, every full moon, he curls up on the couch and takes a nice long nap.

Jim laughed and agreed that it was not a story people would enjoy. It would make men wince, and make a lot of people wonder if I hate men. I don’t. I just have big sleepy retired gentlemen cats.

Jim then wondered if I could get away with telling the story by having the narrator himself be a werecat trying to write a story explaining what life is like as a werecat.

“Isn’t that just like a programmer,” I said. “There’s no problem you can’t solve with another layer of abstraction!”

It had to Happen

Last night I dreamt that I had mailed a version of my story that had so many typos it was incomprehensible. Let the stress dreams begin!

I also dreamt that two VPs I used to work with were being jerks to me. Which was actually kind of in character for them. Maybe I can blame the Jiffy Pop I made while Jim was working late. The last Jiffy Pop I’ll ever have: I saw the trans fat content as I was making it. It had been a total impulse purchase and nostalgia item: we used to always take it on camping trips. And it did seem to taste like I remembered it. But I’ll stick to Jim’s homemade popcorn from now on. It’s much better and hopefully angst-free.

Memories of Big Brown Envelopes

I mailed off my first story to a publisher today. Yes, I know I said I printed it a week ago. But I woke up the next morning realizing that one scene was completely cheesy and had to be rewritten. And when I took out the cheese I had to think about what to put in instead. It’s good now. (What is the opposite of cheesy? Meaty? Or maybe real, as in “Keeping it real, man.” But that’s cheesy. Never mind.)

Surprisingly, the submission process these days is the same as it was thirty-five years ago. I put my double-spaced manuscript in an envelope, weighed it, stamped it, and mailed it to New York City.

Although it was my first submission, it was a very familiar experience. My childhood was full of these envelopes. My mother is a writer, a very good one. (No, you haven’t heard of her. Getting published is hard, damn it. Especially when you write mainstream fiction.)

When I was a kid some big magazines (Atlantic Monthly, Mademoiselle) still published short fiction, and accepted unsolicited manuscripts. Out would go the big envelopes, and six to twelve weeks later back they would come. Then a new cover letter would be typed, and the story sent on to the next market on the list.

The rejection letters were usually small, and short. Occasionally there would be a brief hand written note.

I’m not sure when my mother stopped submitting short fiction. When I was in college she studied film making and made a short silent film about a writer. The writer, played by a fellow writer my mother met at the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, waitressed by day and wrote by night. The most memorable shot was when the camera panned up from her typewriter to the wall above, covered with rejection letters.

“How depressing,” whispered my boyfriend at the screening.
“Those are real,” I whispered back. “They’re hers.”

I should have my own stack of letters soon. They’re the mark of a writer. I hope it helps to know that going in.

First submission

I just printed out the final copy of a story for a magazine submission.  I don’t think I’ve been this nervous and excited since  I sent out my CalTech application.  It would be nice if this ended as well as that did!

Storytelling 101 – #1

When I’m writing a story, I ask myself “what happens next?” However, the answer isn’t always the scene that will move the story along. Maybe it WOULD happen next, but it’s tedious. Or it’s obvious. Or it just slows the story down. So I ask myself, what will move the story to the next beat?