Tuesday, August 5th, 2008 • 1 Comment on Going Long and Mixing Metaphors
I am momentarily caught up on my short story deadlines and I’m working on a novel proposal. It’s slow going—the problem with writing short is that, soon enough, you are finished. Novels are marathons and short stories are sprints and I’ve been sprinting for a long time. I like the rush, but I crave the longevity of the novel form. So, I’m trying to pace myself. Go slow. Take my time. Put in the adjectives and the details and the extraneous stuff I would leave out of a short story. It can be fun, being given many thousand extra words with which to expand a seed of an idea. It can also scare the hell out of me, make me turn back to the shorter format.
Short stories are more forgiving than novels. A lot is left to the imagination. Character is boiled down to the basics. Plot is more direct, less layered. Not that you can’t squeeze a lot into a short story—you can. I’ve seen it done, maybe even done it myself once or twice. Brevity is what it’s all about. Five words instead of ten. Less back story, more immediacy. But I like novel writing, adding the quirky details (and characters) that must be sacrificed in a short story. It’s fun. Really. But it’s a challenge and I’m rusty.
I’ve added it up and figure I have sold enough short fiction to equal two and a half full-length novels. I would never have guessed that—short fiction just feels so much easier. I hit a wall with novels, feeling inadequate to the task of writing them. I write a novel, then fail to edit it. Or I write 90% of a novel and then walk away from it, convinced it’s complete dreck. It is self-sabotage of the worst kind because I challenge myself to do the writing and then I stop short of doing what it takes to sell what I’ve written. Better to stick with the short stories, the ones that sell in only days or weeks, rather than the months or years it can take to sell a novel. I’m not getting any younger, after all.
Still, I’m working on a novel proposal. I am hoping to fall in love with it so that I can’t help but finish it. Right now we’re in the new relationship stage—I’m not committing too much of myself so I can walk away at any point without getting hurt. But one of these days, this story is going to get under my skin and I won’t be able to sleep without cuddling up with it first. I know when that happens, I’ll wonder why I ever had my doubts about novel writing. Who knows, maybe a day is coming when short fiction will seem like too much of a challenge—too few words to tell the story I want to tell. It’s possible. I want to believe that one day I’ll be able to embrace both—and screenwriting, too—and feel accomplished at all.
That’s the thing about being a writer—too often, you don’t feel like one.