I’m suffering from project ADD at the moment.
I don’t have anything that I’m really supposed to be working on at the moment (at last!) so theoretically I’m taking that opportunity (short though it may be) to do a major rewrite of a novel I’d really love to sell sometime, but won’t even think about sending to my agent in it’s current form. So many problems. But I’ve learned a few things since then, so the rewrite is going quite nicely.
Or it would be, if I hadn’t developed this bizarre desire to write short stories.
There’s nothing wrong with writing short stories. But I’ve never been very good at them, and since there’s no money in writing them I’ve never seen the wisdom in forcing myself to learn.
Enter a serious look at my files of my outlined but as-yet unwritten novels. Most of what I write falls into one of two categories: contemporary YA novels, or YA dark fantasy/science fiction. So this high fantasy novel I’ve been toying with? If I published it my publisher would want another one. And I just don’t want to write a bunch of high fantasy anymore. So it’s just never going to happen. I have several ideas like that–ideas that burn at the edges of my brain.
So last week I had this (ridiculous) idea–maybe I could write these ideas as short stories. This process would be shorter than writing a novel (I just can’t devote two months of my life toward writing a novel I know I’ll never sell) and would exorcise the ideas from my brain.
And so the stress I’ve been under lately manifested itself in an all-new kind of strange behavior. Last week I wrote most of a short story. This is ridiculous for the above reasons. I’m not even really a fan of the form. But I’m trying it. Probably to give my brain something to do that is entirely separate from the novel writing that I am trying so hard to get out of my brain at the moment.
And here’s what I’m discovering–writing a short story is all the hard parts of writing a novel, with none of the easy bits. For me, the hardest parts of the novel are the first chapter (where I have to establish everything) and the last chapter (where I have to wrap it all up.) So, a short story is pretty much a first chapter and a last chapter with no stretchy middle where I can sit my characters down and have them talk to each other. By the time I get everything established, it’s time to wrap it up already.
It’s not that I thought writing short stories would be easy. I just never thought about it…at all. No wonder I’ve never enjoyed this.
And yet, the exercise is being good for me. It turns out, I’ve gotten a lot better at establishing things than I was the last time I wrote a first draft. (I don’t want to think about how long that’s been. Crap. I’ve counted it already. Can I be done revising yet? No? Because I’ll just be adding to my pile of revision? Good point. Fine. New novel drafts, you’re back to waiting.)
At the end of the day, the short story is probably going to languish in my files of old writing, because I’ve never written one of these before. What are the odds that it’ll come out good? (Zero, I’m figuring.)
But whatever. I’m writing. I’m counting that as a success.