Thursday, December 22, 2011

Novels and Stories

One thing I've discovered about writing novels: it definitely slows down one's ability to write short stories.


But seriously, since I've committed much of the past two years to novel-writing, my short story production has drastically slowed. I've got a bunch of half-finished stories in the hopper, some of which I'll try to complete, others of which are probably best left where they are. But I haven't been able to muster the time to work on them.

It's not just a time thing, either. The novel I'm currently revising is Young Adult fantasy fiction--requiring a very different voice and narrative approach than the experimental, literary short fiction I've been producing lately. So changing gears from the one to the other presents certain problems; it takes a period of decompression of whatever to move from one style and genre to another, radically different kind.

Case in point: I just completed a very short short story (1,700 words or so) titled "Girl Drives into Oncoming Traffic." I'm pleased with it, and I've started to send it out. It was short enough that I could write it in a week and thus not take too much time away from revising the novel. But its language and narrative were SO very different from what I'd been working on, it had a powerful effect on the novel when I returned to it--in the middle of a lovely, straightforward prose passage, I found myself spouting postmodern nihilism. I cleared it up, needless to say, but it was eerie seeing the hold a particular voice gains over you.

Eerie, but also encouraging. Sustaining a narrative voice is one of the hardest things about writing, especially writing longer works. You have to let the voice take control to a certain extent if you're going to keep it strong and consistent. So it was good to see how deeply the voice I'd created had taken on a life of its own.

But now, it's back to the novel. And to another long dry spell for all the other voices clamoring to get out.

Monday, December 12, 2011

What the Dog Saw

I just received word that my latest science fiction story, "What the Dog Saw," has been accepted by Bellow Literary Journal. It should be out early next year.

Warning: this is the story I mentioned a good long time ago (last year, I think, when I was first writing it) that possesses a very experimental voice. It can be off-putting--though interestingly, two or three journals that rejected it said they liked the voice but didn't like other aspects of the story! I personally think it's a pretty cool little piece, but consider yourself warned.

It's also interesting to note that the editor of Bellow spent some time working with me on this story to make it better. I say this is interesting because, in my personal experience, I've found editors of speculative fiction journals more willing than editors of straight-up literary journals to work with their writers. Several of my spec fic stories, including "Cats in the Backyard," "A Very Small Child Called Eugene," and "A Chimaera Story with Four Morals," were published only after some editorial changes, all of which made the stories better, in my opinion. Now, this might be a false comparison; it might be that my literary fiction just isn't good enough to get published in the journals that offer editorial assistance, so such stories of mine aren't even making it to that point. But it might also be that the editors of journals that specialize in genre fiction have a particularly keen sense of what their readers want, and thus they are particularly invested in crafting stories to meet those expectations.

Whatever, the story's coming out soon! I'd love to hear some reader reactions to it once you see it in print.