Monday, January 11, 2021

Return to writing

I've not posted about writing much lately because, well, I haven't written much lately. After building up a good head of steam on the Venus book, I ran into a plot snarl and set it aside for a short break that's going on two years now. That's not writer's block, I hasten to add. That's me developing a psychological aversion to writing and coming up with excuses to avoid it. I'm sure other writers out there recognize the symptoms, if not the severity. Back in June, an author I admire suggested a short fiction collaboration. Of course, I accepted. They provided the opening to the story, and I, after some false starts and wobbly shaking off the rust motions, provided a middle section to which they carried across the finish line. The result was fine... but we were both underwhelmed with the result. Thus began on-again, off-again revisions which were finally completed at the end of December, resulting in a finished piece that's not only different from what we started with but, at least to my thinking, much more interesting.

The key thing here is that this collaboration broke me out of my self-imposed writing abstinence. It was only a day or so later that I turned my attention to a short story I'd written a decade before, that had been workshopped but then put aside. Alas, it too me several days to track down the workshop critiques, as they'd not been filed were I'd long thought them filed. But found them I did. Here are some thoughts on that story I'm currently revising:

It was run through the Turkey City writers workshop in 2009, just as I was getting consumed by the Chicken Ranch book. I thought I'd put it away as-is, but going through it I've found some significant post-Turkey City revisions. To the extent that the original draft does not exist on my computer anymore. I normally hang on to earlier drafts, so this is odd.

The revised version is significantly shorter than the original, which is good, considering I had about 10 pages of ending that was tacked on because I had no idea how to end it.

The story's more than a decade old, and although I remember the concept clearly, individual scenes and specific details are wholly new to me. As in, I have no memory of ever writing them. That's happened to me before, but it's still startling. What's more, significant passage have me going, "Damn, that's good. Where'd that come from?" Which is certainly better than the alternative. The fact that my detachment from the material makes these observations somewhat objective on my part is encouraging.

My earlier revisions stopped short of the problematic ending. So, no magic get out of plot jail free card for me.

Turkey City participants, in general, are very smart and much better at seeing what I'm trying to do with a story than I am.

My revisions are going very slowly, which corresponds with my overall writing speed in recent years. But part of it comes from my trying to address various valid critique points whilst tightening the narrative overall. I think the revisions significantly improve the efficiency of the narrative, even though the revision process is anything but efficient.

One nice thing about this story is that, apart from some very broad elements, it's not been done before. At least, not that I'm aware of. At my age, with only a dozen published story credits, it's become painfully apparent that I'm not the next Silverberg or Ellison. I've got to make what remaining stories I can wring out of this increasingly inefficient gray matter count.

I may be able to finish this one up with another couple evenings of work. I would be happy with that. Then it's off to F&SF. It feels like a F&SF story to me, and that's a market I've never even come close to selling to. A sale there would mark an excellent start to 2021 and my return to writing after too long a fallow period.

Now Playing: Les Baxter African Jazz
Chicken Ranch Central

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