Monday, November 16, 2015

Looking Back Ten Years

You know, if you had asked me in 2005, I would have said that I absolutely, definitely was ready for publication.  Sure, maybe my work needed some fine-tuning-- or straight up "getting done", but I thought that I was fundamentally there.
Well, this weekend I pulled out a short story I had written around 2005. I'm not sure exactly when I wrote it, but I think it was around then.  To my memory, I wrote it while I was still working in the English department, a job I left in January 2006, and I think I wrote it after attending my first ArmadilloCon Writers' Workshop, which was in July or August of 2005.  This makes sense, because I would have gotten the idea in my head that A. my perennial work-in-progress at the time, the long-since-trunked Crown of Druthal, was not the slam-dunk I thought it was going to be at the workshop and B. that I needed to try to write short stories.
So the short story in question was to be the first of several character-study-shorts focusing on one of the characters from Crown of Druthal.  I had the intention of doing more, but that never materialized.
But back to this piece: at the time, I really thought I had something solid. I put it to critique.  I shopped it around.  I thought, fundamentally, that I was ready to get things moving.
But, like I said, I pulled it out this weekend to look it over-- I wanted to refresh myself on the ideas in the story, mostly for parts to cannibalize for something else brewing in the back of my skull.
It was rather poor work.
It's not BAD, but it's the sort of thing that, if I received it for the Writers' Workshop, I'd give it a B- or C+, in part because the sentences are so clunky.  The story trying too hard and failing miserably.  Plus the climax is RUSHED because I needed to get a lot of things out and keep it under 5000 words, because SHORT STORY.
So, two things this puts in my mind:
A. Don't write short stories just because 'you ought to'.  Write them because they're the natural fit for the story you're telling.  There's no other reason to write a short story.
B. At the time, I really thought this story was Good Stuff.  Now I see how weak it really was.  My writing craft still needed a lot of practice to get to the point where what I was writing was publishable.  I couldn't see that then, but it's clear to me now.  If you're thinking about self-publishing, that's a good thing to keep in mind.  Consider putting something to the side for a bit-- not ten years, but a bit-- and then look at it with fresh eyes before you press "publish".
All that said, I think this story does have something I can salvage.  We'll see.  Off to the word mines for me...

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