Thursday, December 28, 2006

Short Fiction Will Save My Sanity

Recently, there's been buzz about the role of short stories in launching a writing career. I must admit, the idea of making a name for myself with quicker-to-complete short fiction was why I started writing shorter pieces. I didn't latch onto this idea because it was something the pros were telling me to do. Instead it was something that I observed in watching the genre trends at conventions, in the new deals, on blogs, etc. It just seemed to me about this time a year or so ago that short fiction often established oneself in the genre and thus helped one's opus rise above the slush. Plus, it was very desirable to have a few completed pieces that I could sub to maintain some sense of accomplishment and control as I slogged through a novel.

Then I tried to juggle moving with a toddler, a very intense period at the DDJ, moving in with my mother, and buying a house. Short fiction became a path to sanity.

Because my novels are often volumes in multi-book sagas, it's often hard to escape the sense that completing a scene or a chapter is barely nudging the story forward to its ultimate conclusion. Usually this isn't a problem for me. But when chaos becomes a matter of course and the ideas of stability and routine feel like brief sightings of land in a very turbulent, endless ocean, sitting down to a work-in-progress that launches a universe can make you feel like you've just been tossed out of the small boat you were on in the first place. Thus I purposefully set aside SoZ during all of October and most of November and focused on revising a few older short stories and on creating a novelette, Ghost Story (gotta get a better title there).

I didn't feel helpless when I sat down at the computer during the rare moments when I actually had the time. There wasn't an infinite story stretching before me. Everything I did had a concrete, definite end that was easily attainable even given the insanity of that time. It kept me from going crazy and growing to loathe a wonderful world like Velorin. It also had the unanticipated and painful (yet beneficial) side effect of giving me the distance I needed to see the structural flaws of SoZ and a way to fix them.

Here's my current dilemma. I'm again on the cusp of insanity with closing on the house, moving out of my mother's house and into our first house while still juggling the DDJ and a toddler (and things are heating back up again at the DDJ as it seems not much that should've been done since October actually was done). In trying to get back on track with SoZ, I've been doing some extra worldbuilding to actually solidify and organize everything I've learned about Velorin and the characters in the 80K I've already written. This is not an easy or quickly accomplished task. It's not helped that I really need good chunks of uninterrupted time to really sink my teeth into things and let them absorb me. I don't have those chunks of time. I get an hour at best to focus, and the end of that hour is usually when I'm just hitting my stride.

I'm getting mighty frustrated.

Hence, I'm turning once again to short fiction. It helps that any short fiction idea I get that is more than fleeting is much like a demon that must be exorcised as quickly as possible. In fact, my current short in the making is actually an attempt at fanfiction, of sorts. Through a very meandering path, I decided to mold an idea I had into a take on The Tempest, only in a near future setting with some fairly steep changes (in fact, it's a bit of an alternate reality, if you can apply the term to drastically tweaking a plot point of a classic work of fiction; in fact, I don't know if it can reasonably be called fanfiction because of that; oh, and I think I've messed with some of the characterization as set out in the canon). But it's a lot of fun, and I think the link up with the play actually serves to really deepen the theme and character arcs of the story. Or it could just make it extraordinarily shitty. Check in with me when I've finished the story. I may hate the idea and be cursing the Bard for being so damn good, but at least I won't be dangling onto the edge of sanity by my pinky, staring into the abyss that is the Velorin saga.

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