I’m heading toward the ending of this long short story I’ve been working on. I’m pretty pleased with it. I’m particularly pleased with it, because it’s the sort of idea and narrative structure which I could have easily blown into a novel. I would have just expanded and added side stories and more problems and an invented language or two. And I’ll tell you here…I did do most of that in my head.
But I kept it off of the page. I like that I’m telling an epic fantasy novel in a short story length. this is the second time I’ve done that. (the first was “Into Silence, Like a Shout” which was published-and-performed by the wonderful people at Dunesteef Audio Magazine).
That one was definitely epic fantasy (or high fantasy, if you prefer the term), because that was specifically what I was talking about. This one, which I hope to finish tonight, is not high fantasy. There are no Elves, or Dwarves. Or swords. Um. Or land.
Anyway. That’s not what I came here to talk about.
One thing that really fascinates me about my own brain (if you’re gonna have a brain, why not find it interesting?) is that I have a very separate set of gears for short stories and for novels. I use the term “gears” pretty accurately, in that when I’m forced to switch between them, it sort of feels like someone who doesn’t know how to drive a stick shift really grinding the gears together and making that awful racheting noise.
Which is a pretty rough metaphor coming from a guy who doesn’t drive.
Since mid-November, I’d been working on a novel, “Save Us” absolutely non-stop. I was enjoying it, everything was working, new ideas would appear and seamlessly blend with old ideas. Old ideas which didn’t to work anymore were restructuring themselves in the back of my head until they did work.
But toward the end of December, I decided to take a break and go do a short story. I just wanted a change of pace, a change of scenery, and to do something which I could put an ending to sooner than I’d be doing with a novel.
So this is the gear change. Taking all those parts of my brain which are busy constructing the intricate clockwork of a novel…and shifting them over to short stories. It sometimes leave me doing nothing much for a few days, except reading, as my brain reorganizes itself. I have to spend some time thinking “short stories” before my brain gets there, if you see what I mean.
Normally, what I do while I’m shifting are articles, book reviews, and the like for SF Signal. Not because they don’t require any brainpower, it’s just that they don’t seem to require a gear change. I can stop writing a novel, or a short story, to do a book review.
Anyway, my gears shifted and I got to work on this short story I’ve been vaguely talking about for awhile now.
But what happens is, my short story gears engage. Obviously.
And the result is, I wind up generating lots of short stories. In this past week, I’ve had four or five short stories turn up. All of them are ones I’m interested in writing, all of them brand new ideas and not just retries on old ideas that didn’t work. All of them seem good, in my head. basically, in the space of writing this one longer story, all these others have turned up.
And I know when I get into the next one (which is called “What Lurks?” and has got BIG DAMN MONSTERS in it), as I’m working on that one, MORE will turn up.
I’m not complaining. I just find it interesting how zero short stories will turn up when I’m in the novel, but when I shift over, the connections start getting made, and the stories start coming in.
And the nice thing about my handwriting work habits now is, instead of rushing through and producing a lot of stories very fast, I’m going to go slower and more deliberate and STILL produce a lot of stories…but all of them will be fully-told (instead of half-cocked) and will be polished, lovely things I’m proud of.
The trick, of course, is deciding when to stop and switch back to the novel gears. Probably not for a bit. It’ll do some good to write a bunch of short stories I’m happy with. It makes me happy. I’m a natural short story writer before I’m a natural novel writer.
Anyway, short stories versus novels, I can tell you which one’s going to be bringing in some money sooner.
Perfect example. In the course of writing this blog post, I happened to glance at a friend’s photos on Facebook, and one of them was her, wearing a white dress, reflected roughly in a window. I stared at it for a moment, and an interesting mobius strip of a story turned up in my head. That one’s pretty short, so maybe I’ll do that next.
See? The gears don’t quit.
Okay, I’m back to work. Good night, world.