Back when finned gas-guzzlers ruled the road, there were hundreds of short story markets and I sampled as many of their wares as I could get my hands on. Well into my twenties, short stories were half of what I read and all that I wrote. Real life intruded and both the markets and my short story writing fell by the wayside. Novel writing was the way to go and there I attempted to travel.
My first ‘novel’ was written in the late 70s – early 80s, nearly indecipherable scrawls on pad after pad of yellow paper. It was called Mrs. Lawrence of Essex – A Twisted Love Story and was really a series of short stories strung together along a time line. I lost those sheets of paper somewhere along the way but remembered the gist of the story vividly, transferring it to zeros and ones when I got my first computer. Over the years, that file has moved from computer to computer, been converted from Wordstar to Wordperfect and updated through all the WP versions to the current one. It’s still pretty much in it’s first draft stage and may well stay there forever.
I completed three more novels since those first scrawls. The first of those went through so many revisions and name changes that it’s a disjointed mess and no longer has a title. I think of it as my learning novel. It was a good story with good characters that I think of too often but it’s so mixed up now I doubt it will ever see the light of day.
The second of those three, Stealing The Marbles, I wrote in a frenzy shortly after a return from Greece in 2004. I even managed to get an agent for it but he turned out to be a royal dickhead and I ended up dumping him. I haven’t made a serious effort to get another one since. Call it a quirk in my personality, but I have a difficult time playing the query game and, considering the bizarre way the publishing industry works today, there are long moments when I’m not sure I want to play the game. Hell, I’m not sure I could play it. I don’t do people well and once you get published you find yourself in the midst of a whole lot of em. I have a feeling I’d make a complete ass of myself.
The last of the three, Meter Maids Eat Their Young – A Love Story’s End, damn near killed me. Meter Maids was sort of a sequel to Mrs. Lawrence and a little too autobiographical for comfort, sort of a closure thing to something I’d been hanging onto much too long. Another one of those quirks, ya know, a tendency to hang on to things long past the point at which I should let them go.
Since finishing Meter Maids, I haven’t really attempted another novel. I’m not sure if I ever will. Oh, I have ideas, I’m just not sure if I want to devote the time to something I probably won’t pursue beyond the writing. What I have been doing is writing short stories and finding that I really enjoy the whole process. Three or four have been published in the last few months and I have one, The Karaoke Singer, currently playing at the SoMa Literary Review.
I like the intensity of writing a short, the brief letting go of the real world and into the whirlpool in my head. Once an idea takes hold, I can be off and running, pounding out two or three or ten thousand words in the time it takes the sun to make it’s daily journey across the sky and having a finished product by bed time. And when it’s done, there are no query letters to write, no dismal hunt for an agent, no marketing departments to judge your worth, just a quick scan of Duotrope’s Digest to find the right market and off the story goes. Ok, so there’s rarely any pay but you don’t have to do any interviews, become a guest blogger, meet and greet any editors or publishers or marketing drones or play any of the other games a published novelist needs to play in today’s publishing world. And, being the basic recluse that I am, I like that just fine.
Did I mention that The Karaoke Singer has been published by the SoMa Literary Review? Please show your support for short stories in general and me in particular by checking the ezine out. To check out some of the other stories I’ve published recently, follow this LINK.
nicely done – short stories are my favorite form of literature, don’t seem to have the attention span for novels anymore – I felt like I was following you, um, I mean, Winston, around…kudos!
I just read ‘The Karaoke Singer’. Excellent. Thank-you.