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Friday, October 10, 2008

Still More Whining About Short Stories

Writing is a depressing business. I'm not talking about the constant rejections. I'm not even at that level yet. I'm talking about when you know your own work is crap compared to everything out there.

Before yesterday everything was going fine and dandy. La-dee-da, I'm getting good story ideas. No writer's block for a while, which is difficult when I'm doing first draft composition. Then I did a word check to see how much I'm getting written per day. Only a thousand words. When I was writing Blood 2 and Black Hole Son, I could get 2,000 a day easy, and then some if I had time, and that filled my 45 minute writing lunch hour. If I write 1,000 words a day, five days a week, a 90,000 word novel wouldn't even have a complete first draft for a little over four months. I don't know, maybe some writers take longer, but the key to getting your name out there is market saturation - lots of tangible product content as fast as possible.

And then I'm realizing that everything I write sounds like a children's story. My wife suggested sending Vampire Family Story to a kids magazine, saying it sounded like something she could see in a middle school reader (she's a teacher). I can't send White Mage Story anywhere, because she helped me realize it's a long story tied up in too small a box. Fairy Story is a flash fiction, too small to make much impact or more than a few dollars. Kaiju Story is basically a beginning and an ending from two separate stories that don't fit together. And who knows where Old Dragon Slayer Story is going to end up, but it sounds like a kid's story to me. Characters make their way from Point A to Point B, and encounter little resistance along the way. There's no revealed past, there's no in media res, there's no complexity that you'd see in a modern story. There's no insightful genius or artistic attempt.

Take a story like Yell Alley. I hate this story. It's a bunch of imagery and poetry, but no characters and no plot. But it's published. And this is the typical science fiction story I see. Some sort of muddled-together collection of pretty words and phrases. This is what the intelligent public is expecting, and I can't deliver that. I write things that sound like children's fables, or grade school assignments. I think of things like "how would a parent-teacher conference go if the parent was a robot?" or "what if there was a dragon slayer, but he was old". Stupid juvenile stuff like that. How is that going to get published? There's no genius behind it. No deep thinking. No thought-provoking ideas. The things I write are to teach a lesson. That's not science fiction, that's a folk tale. And it doesn't belong in an adult magazine.

This is why I hate short stories.
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