A Wish For Captain Hook
4400 words long
Quick Update: Rejection Letters, Mobile Writing Retreats
Hello! I'm in Chicago. I didn't expect to be here at 4:30 PM on Thursday the 29th--I quite expected to be on Amtrak's Maple Leaf line headed for the Canadian border--but them's the freight. I mean, the breaks.
It occurred to me that although I've been blogging up a storm at Metroblogging and Burnzpost, I haven't said much over here in a while. Um. There are reasons. I won't say what they are, because I don't want to disturb any assumptions you might have about them being good reasons. Just you go on thinking that, eh?
Anyway, my pirate story won't be in Shimmer's pirate issue. The rejection letter was complimentary. I don't know whether JJA uses form email letters like he does snail-mail ones. If so, this was the "nice writing but didn't ultimately work for me" one. Which isn't a bad thing.
So "A Wish For Captain Hook" will get in the rewrite queue, right behind all the other short stories waiting to be rewritten. I'm-a gonna be working on that whilst riding the rails. A sort of mobile writing retreat, see. No internet means no Puzzle Pirates to distract me! Yarr! Unfortunately, I can't bring myself to uninstall Spider Solitaire, and it's amazing how addictive that gets when there's other things I should be doing.
How many people bring a printer onboard an Amtrak superliner and set up a mobile office in coach? I mean, really? Can't be that many. People stared a bit.
When next I update, it'll be from the World Horror Convention in Toronto. At which I shall be arriving a day later than planned. Darn it. But for the record, Amtrak treats its "distressed passengers" very well. The hotel was quite posh.
More. A couple hours later.
I sent the bastard. Yes. It is on its way.
I'm not displeased with how it turned out, actually. I look forward to a good excuse to revise it good, of course, but for the rush job I gave it I'm not entirely dissatisfied.
I like the way it ends.
I spent the bulk of the past couple hours working on the opening, to make it more likely that it will be read all the way through to the end. As anyone in this business knows, that's never guaranteed. The wishing business is more understated and the exposition is, I hope, a little better woven into the action. And there's a smidge more tension between Louise and her Dad, which I like.
Hey, just as a reminder? This story is not autobiographical. I stole a bunch of autobiographical details from it, but Louise's Dad is not my Dad, for all that they're both pediatricians in Metairie after Katrina hit. Louise isn't me, for all that we both like(d) to spend time hanging out despite parental prohibitions on the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. Louise's house is not my house, for all that I gave it our big bookshelf at the top of the stairs that got soaked when Katrina blew a hole in the roof. And Louise's brother is not my brother in any way shape or form, even though I stole the two-year-old pronouncement of "cars going splash into the water" from him. Similarities notwithstanding, this is fiction.
Sometimes I just feel like I need to reiterate that.
The Last-Minutest Short Story Ever!
- 5,655 words (if poetry, lines) long
So I have now completed a full, actual draft of this story. And I do in fact intend to email it to Shimmer within the next couple hours. Yes, I'm nuts. But I said I'd submit, and gosh-darn-it, I'm going to submit.
Who knows? I may surprise myself.
I have a good deal of tightening up to do. It's too long for Shimmer's 5,000 word maximum. I also need to go back and make sure everything I want in it has actually gotten out of my head and onto the page, like what's the deal with Louise and Jimbo's Mom, and what Louise's Dad is up to, and all the parallels between Louise and Wendy, and of course making sure that it doesn't look too cheesy that Jimbo's got the same first name as Captain Hook. Y'know.
So. Back to the grind. More in a couple of hours.
Thunk - the sound of a 15,000-word RTF attachment hitting my editor's inbox at 8:00 AM on the morning of a much-extended (for reasons mostly to do with scheduling interviews) deadline morning.
Zzzzz - the sounds emanating from the bedroom shortly thereafter and for most of the day. Week, in fact. Most of the week. When I crash, I crash hard.
Whizz - the sound of the February 28 deadline for Shimmer's "Pirate" issue approaching with great velocity, in flagrant disregard for my state of crashiness.
Vroom! - Me, shifting into high-speed productivity mode with regard to that and everything else I'd temporaily shelved during the freelance project (a prospective freelance web design assignment, a continuing novel critique, and all sorts of fictioneering in addition to the short story.
...Better late than never, right?
Bonus terminology: Damn you, wench! And I mean that in the nicest possible way... - Me, discovering exactly what my friend had done when she said, "You know what? You should totally check out PuzzlePirates.com." Do not, as you value your own real-world productivity, go and do likewise.
OK, well, but if you do, drop me and email and tell me what handle you play on which ocean. I'll invite you to be one of me hearties. Arrr!
I'm Not Stalking Anyone, Honest
If you happen to live at 4335 Lake Villa Drive in Metairie, Louisiana, I promise this isn't personal. The fictional kids in my fictional story just happen to live on your nonfictional block, that's all. I just popped addresses into Google Maps until I got sort of the house I was envisioning, et voila.
I didn't want to set the story on the street where I grew up. That seemed too easy. Plus I've done it before. So I hit on using the piece of Lake Pontchartrain I'm next most familiar with: the area by the Suburban Canal. I rode my bike down there countless times as a teenager, sometimes hanging out under the gazebo with my writing notebook and my headphones, sometimes just tossing french fries to the seagulls. I guess I could have had my two fictional kids hanging out on the sea wall by the Bonnabel Boat Launch, but it's too late now. I've worked on the story long enough that, dammit, they live where they live, and trying to pretend otherwise would be dishonest.
Sometimes pieces of a story get ossified like that; they're no longer up for debate because that's the way it happened. What began as fiction sort of calcifies into, if not exactly reality, than an idea that my thought processes treat as reality. Katrina happened in '05, the New Orleans Saints won their Divisional Championship in '06, and Louise and Jimbo live on the first block of Lake Villa south of West Esplanade. I know one of those things isn't true, but my thoughts make room for it just as though it were no less factual than the other two.
Anyway... If you happen to live in the area, dear reader, I wouldn't mind knowing how your neighborhood fared. The story is set during November/December '05, and I want to be at least semi-faithful to what really happened. Was it like my parents' block, where all the damage came from holes in roofs, not flood? Was the street pretty empty during the months following, or did people come home fairly quickly? I didn't see too much full-body devastation last time I took a bike ride up Lake Villa from the pumping station to Veterans Memorial Boulevard, but then that was December '06 and all sorts of restoration could have happened since. And when did all that construction at the pumping station start? It's not the safe-house I'm talking about; that's done. It's all the cranes digging up huge chunks of levee that I mean. And when was that sea wall built in front of the mouth of the canal? I know it wasn't there when I was in high school some 15 years ago. How do you even begin Googling for that kind of information? Think the Jefferson Parish Library can help? They can certainly tell me about branch closures and reopenings after the storm, at least. Maybe I should check the NOLA.com message boards, or ask around the comment sections at Metroblogging New Orleans.
If you have info and feel like sharing, the email link is at the bottom right-hand corner of the page. Yes, it's a pop-up web form. I'm sorry. Deal with it.
Reprieve! Reprieve! And Temptation!
- 606 words (if poetry, lines) long
This just in: The deadline for submissions to Shimmer's "Pirate" issue has been extended a whole 'nother month! (Well, a little less than a whole month, what with the next month being February and all, but anyway...) So saith the Slush God!
This means I can procrastinate that sucker right up until Feb 26 and submit roughly the same quality I would have tomorrow!
...but I won't. I did a good solid 500 words on the new draft Monday/yesterday (haven't been to bed yet, all confused about how to define "tomorrow" and "today" and such), and I expect to do no less every day until the draft is finished. No breaks! I'm just allowed to be slower, that's all.
(I'm also allowed to prioritize my Feb 12 freelance deadline. Which is a relief, 'cause it would be nice to get that in on time, get paid on time, and pay my credit card bill on time. Yay for promptitude!.)
I have too much fiction lined up behind this story waiting to be finished and sent off; another month spent dawdling would not be a good idea.
On a not entirely unrelated tangent: Over at AbsoluteWrite.com, the regulars are asking each other this timeless question: What's the difference between a writer and a wanna-be? I have been avoiding that thread because Certain People make me all Huffy about it, and I have a tendency to get a bit Snarky. But I can tell you the difference. Yes, I can. The difference is this: a writer writes. A wanna-be only thinks about writing.
Here's the big secret, though: Being one doesn't mean you can't also be the other. You can be both. On alternating days, maybe. Or months. A wanna-be in January and a writer in February and then, as soon as the story's done, you're a wanna-be again for a few days until you jump back in the ring and become a writer writing a brand new story.
In Spanish, there are two verbs that mean "to be." Estar is for temporary and locational conditions (death, oddly, being one of them, which may bespeak an tacit cultural belief in reincarnation, or zombies, or more likely looking for the resurrection of the dead and the life of the world to come etc. etc. but that's beside the point); ser is for more permanent, defining characteristics. I think the description "wanna-be" probably takes estar.
Theme And Memory
Just a quickie this morning before I get to work. I reread Peter Pan last week. Memory is fallible, and I wanted to have the canonical text fresh in my head. Specifically, I couldn't remember what the Lost Boys wore exactly. Turns out their wore bear skins.
Other things I discovered:
- I had unwittingly given the baby brother the same first name as Captain Hook--must address so as not to make this look like a cutsy authorial fiat.
- There is a lot of violence on Neverland. I'd remembered that. I hadn't remembered exactly how very much of a lot of violence, and how callous the children are about it.
- Dude! Siblings as surrogate mothers! Duh.
That's all. Off to finish the draft now. Ta.
A Chimera-Spotter's Field Guide
Writing a story, we are told, is like sculpting an elephant: you start with a marble block and you remove the bits that aren't elephant. Except it's more like sculpting a chimerical beastie no one has ever seen before except you, just once, in a dream after a late night consuming too much tequila and not enough orange juice. You're not exactly sure what you saw, come to think of it. But it was cool.
This makes it a little difficult to figure out which bits of the marble block to remove.
And then there's the other big difference between writing a story and sculpting an elephant. Writing a story means you have to make the marble yourself. This is a point Chris Baty drove home in a pep-talk from his No Plot? No Problem! Writing Kit. When you write your first draft of the story or novel you'll later sculpt into something beautiful, you're actually conjuring up the raw material. Out of thin air. Poof.
I began writing this short story rather like I write a NaNoWriMo novel. I sort of just splortched out a series of babbled scene wanna-bes, filtered not at all for quality or connectivity, jumped around the timeline, deleted nothing, inserted whatever crossed my mind. The result is a hodge-podge that hasn't, in fact, coelesced into draft one. Apparently I'm fairly good at making mediocre marble. All my writing of late has been like that. Splortchy. And then when I try to revise one of my other stories, long or short, I end up stuck on paragraph two.
I've been in a slump.
I've been telling people that my slump is really just that temporary valley of despair a writer ends up in after a particularly intense learning experience. It's the paralysis that results from realizing that ye Gods, I really do suck, I have so much still to learn, I have insurmountable buttloads of stupid in my story, I am ashamed of even trying to write. It's not just me. A few other VPX alumni have copped to it, too--having a hard time jumping back in, wondering whether they were actually meant to be writers at all. But if you are going to be a writer, then you have to get out of the slump again. You gotta pick yourself up and get back to writing. If you do, lo and behold, you discover you can still do this, and even better than before, because you've begun incorporating all the lessons you just learned. And then suddenly it's easy and fun or at least rewarding again.
Getting out of the slump doesn't happen by itself. A writer has to put forth that effort. I've been procrastinating instead, and I'm running out of plausible excuses.
I've had several people suggest to me that outlining might be the best way to dig myself out. All this workshopping of late has got me fixated on details but has lost me the sight of the big picture. Whatever stage a given story is at, I need to make sure I have at least a rough field guide for identifying the chimera in the marble.
That's mostly what I've done today. Outlining. Asking myself questions: What's the theme? What's the plot? Who are these characters? And which bits of the splortched excuse for a rough draft have absolutely nothing to do with any of it? Do I need to quarry more marble?
And why am I stopping to blog this when all I've done towards answering these questions is fifteen minutes of thinking on paper?
...Right. I gotta go.
Ending the Radio Silence
- 3,841 words (if poetry, lines) long
We apologize for the inconvenience, but there was no Actual Writing to report on all week. Today Actual Writing has occurred and so our Actual Writing Coverage can continue. Thank you for your patience.
The first draft of the story is not done, but the shape is a lot clearer, especially now that the main character has decided that everything that happens is in fact her fault. She might be right, too, but I couldn't say. I wasn't there. I'll have to defer to her judgment on this.
Also. Long walks home from downtown Boulder, knitting needles busily in hand, are very good for brainstorming. You should try it. And then you'll be as sore about the shins and knees and elbows as I am, too. And it'll be good for you.
On Using yWriter for Short Fiction. Also, Yule Logs On Bikes.
- 2,448 words (if poetry, lines) long
Today I could have easily been overtaken even by a very out-of-shape Muse. I found me a Yule Log lying alongside the Boulder Creek Path, and I strapped it to my bike (cf. illo). The rest of my ride home was slow, careful, containing as few sharp turns as possible, and punctuated by cheers and thumbs-up from random passers-by. As far as bicycling machismo goes, I have nothing to prove.
Also, yWriter. Can it be used for short fiction as well as for novels? Why, yes it can. But why would you? Possibly because you have some scenes in your head just waiting to be written down, but you're not sure what order they go in or what other scenes to use as glue in between. Watch out for that NaNoWriMo mindset, though. You know the one. That's where you just have your characters totally babble because you've got a word quota to meet, dammit! Well, you don't. You just need to end up with a draft of a short story, is all.
I do not yet have a draft of a short story. But I've got almost all my scenes in place. I hope to get it to Full First Draft tomorrow, maybe even upload it to my fellow VPXmen. I want this guy out the door early.