Thursday, February 25, 2010

Snow Day!

It's hard to really imagine the difference between how excited I'd get as a kid when school was closed for the day and how annoyed I get now when it happens. I mean, sure, spending time with the kids is nice, but I had stuff to do today that now is not going to get done. At least, it likely won't get done today, anyway.

My current project is a (hopefully) brief departure from my long-term work. I'm taking a little break from my novel because I want to write a short story to submit to an anthology for publication. Somebody on a forum suggested some months ago that if I want to write full-time, I ought to be looking into things like John Joseph Adams's The Way of the Wizard anthology. Adams is an editor at Science Fiction & Fantasy magazine and has already published anthologies on topics like outer space, armageddon and zombies. Now he's looking for material for a book of wizard-related short-stories. Most of Adams's books include works by very well-known bestselling writers like Stephen King, George R.R. Martin and Laurel K. Hamilton so I have no idea what my chances are, but it also doesn't really take THAT long to write a short-story so I figured I ought to take on this challenge.

I found out about the book back in the fall and the first thing I did was to collect wizard-related story ideas. Then I put it aside for a while so I could focus on the novel. Yesterday, I pulled out my document of ideas and was fairly amazed. I recalled that I'd taken fairly detailed notes on at least one story concept, but had forgotten how much material I had for it. More, I'd totally failed to remember that I'd also set down a detailed write-up for two or three other stories. And a less-detailed write-up for a couple more. And bare-bones notes (just a couple of sentences) for two or three others. All together, I had seven or eight story concepts that were fleshed out in decreasing degrees. Which I thought was pretty cool, but I still grabbed the top one - the one I'd been thinking about and looking forward to writing for the last several months.

But my wife made a good point when I told her about the file of story concepts last night. She said that if Adams doesn't select my work for his anthology, I should write up the whole batch of stories and write my own. Damn straight, I said! You hear that, Mr. Adams? Submit or face a full-on frontal assault. This is war, sir. A war of wizards! I've got a loaded wand and I'm not afraid to use it!

Or something. I dunno. My plan at the moment is to finish this story over the next two or three weeks, including getting it critiqued by some reliable readers and doing a handful of rewrites (probably around four major ones, plus the ones I'll no doubt do while I'm writing that typically add up to another four or five) before sending it off for consideration. Writing short stories is very different from writing a novel. In both cases you want to choose good words to tell your story, but short stories really require that every word be perfect because you're trying to cram all of your characterization, imagery, theme, symbolism and conflict into a much smaller package that's just as rich and full and entertaining. It has as much in common with poetry, in fact, as it does with long-form prose.

I got a good start yesterday - I know the specifics of the story I want to write and I wrote the first 800 words or so. The limit is 5,000 words and I expect I'll probably hit somewhere in the neighborhood of 3,000. We'll see where it ends up. Wherever that end is, I'm not likely to get any closer to it today. Because it's a snow day.

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