I’ve never been much of a short story guy. I never read short fiction like I did novels, and even though there are a bunch of shorts I really love, getting an anthology of short stories is a ticket to a half-finished book sitting on my shelf. For me, the getting into a story part of reading takes up a lot of energy, so a few hundred pages of ten page stories means dozens of times where I have to get oriented, figure out what I’m reading, why I’m reading it, why I should care. Just when I’m into it, the thing is over. Restart. Retry. Have fun.
That isn’t to say I don’t respect short fiction. The canon of modern science fiction is built on it. The best SF writers almost all did their best work writing shorts. Some of the classic SF novels of the 50’s and 60’s are either a collection of shorter works or evolved out of a short. In fact, I not only respect short fiction; when I can get myself into reading it, I almost always come away kicking myself for how little of it I do. It’s a deficit. A weakness.
It’s no surprise that, since I wasn’t much of a reader of short fiction, I was an even worse writer of it. You can’t really write what you don’t read, unless you’re some kind of savant or lucky moron, and I’m neither a savant, nor lucky. Short fiction, outside of a few pathetic attempts, was simply outside of my ken. Until a few years ago, that wasn’t really a problem for me, but it was a deficiency I started to feel. I don’t like having weaknesses.
When I got my Kindle a few years ago, the first thing I did was buy a subscription to Asimov’s. It’s still probably the best thing I’ve done with that Kindle. I don’t read every issue, and I don’t always read everything inside. That doesn’t matter. Just getting myself into the rhythm of it has made reading them easier. I was even enjoying the ones I didn’t really enjoy. Better, I started wanting to give writing them another try.
It was well timed. Last fall, Rachel came to me and asked me to write something for an anthology she was putting together.
Like with reading, my spin up time on writing shorts is almost as bad as for something much longer. Proportional to the word count, it’s probably worse. I spent the better part of two months just trying to get the ideas to lock together, to overcome my biggest obstacle in writing short fiction: finding a story that fit. I feel comfortable in long form writing, because my ideas tend towards things that need space to build. In short fiction, I’d always struggled to find a story I could tell in 5,000 words that wasn’t so slight as to not be satisfying (and I hate how many short stories feel like cast-off, underdeveloped novel ideas) or so long as to turn it into a novella. I’d given up hitting that roadblock in the past. This time, I kept at it. It took me a few months, but slowly, things fell into place.
Last night, I turned in the second draft of “She Says Goodbye Tomorrow” to Rachel. I couldn’t be more excited about it. And, yeah, I hate saying that out loud. It feels like asking for trouble when people actually read it. Who knows if the things that make the story work for me will work for anyone else. At present, I haven’t even heard from Rachel if she likes the new draft. But I’m saying it anyway, because I am really happy with it. Whatever comes, I’m proud of where I’ve gotten.
I mean, I wrote a short story I don’t want to burn on completion. That’s some success, right there.
I probably have at least one more draft of it to do, but finishing the second draft of “She Says Goodbye Tomorrow” basically means the last project from 2011, the last project not a part of The Plan, is done. Which isn’t to say that a ship won’t wreck into the plan and sink it tomorrow, but keeping on top of the short – and getting it done without hating it – means I’m at least starting things on track. This is good. This is very good.
As for the anthology, I don’t have a publication date, but when Rachel gets it out, I’ll let you know. Oh, who I am I kidding? I’ll be flogging the hell out of it for weeks before its release. Until then, wish me happy re-writing.