FULL BLEED: WE’RE ALL AS MAD AS HATTERS HERE
Been a week. And then some. The holidays are bearing down like a nemesis planet shook free from its hidden orbit and coming in for a big ‘ol terminal hug. Things aren’t normal, but a whole lotta folks seem hell-bent on making it that way. Ah well, nature will do what it’s gonna do no matter how much you don’t want it to happen.
My experiment on writing in response to anthology calls has come to an end. Whether or not it’s ignominious is an exercise left to the reader. Let’s just say I won’t be repeating it. It was maybe a nice idea but getting paid less than a penny a word? Assuming I could bend to whatever they’re looking for? Perhaps foolish. Especially when 5k seems to be an outside limit on length for most of these outlets. And they’re entitled to run things the way they want to. It’s their playground. Just that when I have a story, it runs as long as it’s gonna run. The last one I wrote, knowing I wouldn’t make it fit, was a piece called “Suicide Jewelry” which is now a standalone story in the HAZELAND setting. It was originally intended for an anthology that wanted music-adjacent stories.
It also wanted them to be 3500 words, max. Go ahead and guess how long the first draft went. It’s close to a record for me. Usually my first attempt goes about double the length. Been like that since my first contracted short story for Blizzard.
This one went to 13000 words. I didn’t go long on description or world building or any of that jazz. If anything, it’s under-written, as has everything I’ve done lately, it seems. So, yeah. I’m not cut out for this world, especially when I see announcements that say “Five thousand words will be a tough sell” and I wonder how the hell anything gets done in that length. Just not how I work. Whatever. Just like my first impulse is to look at the genre boundaries out there and say “Nah” then just do what feels like is working for the story.
Which is really funny, as I start out looking at agents and such. I see a lot of agents saying they don’t want a particular genre and just something that works, or better yet, something that sits between genres. Then I go to bookstores and you bet those genre borders are right there. Yes, we can argue about beach books and literary fiction and general literature and hell, YA as a genre. That’s great for Twitter, I suppose, or if you have a podcast that you want to get listeners for. I’m just tired. I'm not gonna. There's better uses for online time.
Back to shorts and submissions. I’ll talk more about the agent search later, as this will be an ongoing theme for some time, I suspect. (Mostly it’s very very intimidating and I’m quite sure that I am not what any of these people are looking for — but I’ll give them the opportunity to shoot me down or prove me wrong.) There’s really not much I can do about being liked or not liked. And I know that times are tough and resources are thin for everyone, but coming up with a story that is well-constructed enough and not in dire need of reconstruction for the prices that are being asked? Yeah. It’s tough. There’s only so much time.
I know. This is a sacred profession and I should be honored to and yadda yadda yadda. The writing part is sure as hell sacred. The publishing part? The getting accepted part? Profane. That’s the problem with passing into this vale of tears, y’know? Just like the perfect idea doesn’t survive the incarnation into all-too-imperfect words. That’s the deal. Just like the act of measurement collapses the pilot wave of the quantum universe into the material and all kinds of things get lost. And in my case, I’m the instrument doing the collapsing of all those wonderful ideas and experiences into something that you all can read. No, really, I’ve got a bunch of books you can go buy. I can do what I can do.
I’m not sure I’m capable of doing the on-command respond to prompts, not in the timelines that I was working in. And if I am, well, I get into it and try to fill it out and deliver way the hell more than anyone wants in the bite-size fiction that seems to be a big presence in the landscape. Yes, there are outlets that want longer shorts. I’ll keep my eye out, now that I’ve got an *ahem* inventory of trunk stories.
There’s actually one more outlet that I considered. It’s another 3500 word story. And I have the setup in my head. I also know it’s going to run real long. After oh and what, six? Yeah, not excited about this. Probably better that I just write a story that I’m happy with and maybe find an outlet or I dunno, just put out another collection of short stories for people to find on Amazon and clearly torture themselves over the decision not to buy.
That’s also not an exciting possibility, honestly. But at least I’d have stories I was happy with that weren’t there before. And all throughout the end of this process, I'm reminded that it's not whether or not the editor thinks the writing is good or whether or not they even *like* it, which is not the same thing. Ultimately, the editor has to come up with something that they believe that they can sell, or the marketing department can sell. They don't *know* instinctively what will or won't survive the process to even be shaped into a bestseller. They can reach for it and hope. But knowing on first blush which books are going to be set up to re-shape the world? Yeah. That's not happening. This isn't a dig. This is an observation (and there's no such thing as a fact.)
So back to what I do, what I can do, what I've an aptitude for, what I might even be good at. It's just my voice, which of course boils right down to the inability to settle in on a genre or the kinds of characters I end up summoning into the world out of the smoke of experience and works I've spent a lifetime absorbing and things I've seen and fractured perspective which is distrustful of both the academic world and the realms of broad culture because I know that both of those realms are wholly artificial and constructed and arbitrary. This doesn't make for a good fit, I understand. But it is what I can do. And it's not short stories as they're conceived of (plus nobody really wants to sell novelettes or whatever name they try to get these not a snack, not a meal works sold.) So... it's novels then?
Of course, committing to novels just written blind? Yeah, that’s pretty intimidating. Everything’s daunting, though. Every goddamn thing.
I’d love to talk about good stuff I’ve watched recently, but unfortunately it’s been a lot of content. Content with huge Hollywood A-list stars and they’re just kinda lifeless cartoons that cost hundreds of millions and look like they cost a little more than an episode of your average SF TV show. That’s depressing stuff. I’m all for mindless fun, but at least make it look like you burned up a stack of dollars to get butts into seats. Or make the script with some real zing. Bad script, you just can’t hide that stuff. I'll probably talk about that next week. The relationship between digitally-shot content and streaming and timewave zero. Look it up.
Been reading a weird combination of the history of quantum physics and terminal cosmology (and if you think science is all neutral facts and you’re already laughing right? Good.) Seriously, science is dominated by personalities and biases and philosophies of the construction of science itself that are internalized and invisible and yeah, get in the way of whatever we might call truth. That said, it’s all interesting reading and food for thought. Besides, the concept of white dwarf stars boiling down to inert iron shells with almost-dead hearts? Yeah, there’s your cosmic horror for you.
Speaking of cosmic horror, re-read CHILD OF GOD by Cormac McCarthy, just to make myself feel bad about my own writing. It’s still an astonishing, horrible novel that trawls the depth of the soul and doesn’t let you find an easy bottom, just more and more dark water beneath your toes.
Oh, I’ve been asked to blurb a book. Yeah, that was weird. I’m pretty sure they sent it to me by mistake. Whatever. They did it and they can’t take it back.
Early post next week due to Thanksgiving monkey wrenching things. Watch the skies.