Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Patience

Okay, I know it's been a while since I posted, but there hasn't been much to report of late from the Land of Me. Work on the new book has been halting, but that's to be expected; it always takes me a while to get into the rhythm of a new piece, long or short, and to be honest, real life's been getting in the way a little more than I'd like. I've been meaning to post about the perils and pitfalls of incorporating backstory into the second in a series (an issue that's new to me), but that's a topic for another time. See, today, I'd rather talk about patience.

I confess, these past couple years of writing and submitting have made me something of an acceptance junkie. Whether shorts, or queries, or whatever, there's something addictive about the charge you get when somebody likes what you've written. Hell, just having stuff out on submission is exciting, because you never know when you're gonna get that letter, that e-mail, that call. But as I addressed in the last post, I've not written any shorts of late, which means acceptance-wise, things are kinda quiet 'round here.

There's oodles of writing advice floating around on this-here series of tubes, some good and some bad, but the one thing I've found most useful of late is courtesy of Joe Konrath. Now, I don't agree with all of Joe's advice, but one of his common refrains has been resonating with me of late: namely, that you should only set goals that are actually within your control. A finished first draft is an attainable goal, as is a final draft that you're proud of. Whether it's a runaway bestseller is out of your hands. Of course, thinking that way takes a bit of rewiring, but I'm working on it. (Thinking that way, not rewiring my brain.) (Crap, the parentheticals are back!) And my feeling is, if you kick ass at everything that's within your control, everything else will sort itself out.

So yeah. I love short stories -- and have every intention of continuing to write them -- but for me, books are where it's at. I think The Angels' Share is a damn good book. I think Dead Harvest is even better. I'm doing my level best to make the next one better than that. As for all the rest, I turn to the inspirational words of Mr. Axl Rose: "All we need is just a little patience."

Of course, this from the guy who's taken fifteen years to put a freakin' album together, but I digress...

19 comments:

Pidge said...

So we were just talking about you, are you working at your biology lab on the Maine coast or are you blogging today? Looks like a long blog to be posting.....

Chris said...

Well, of course, I wrote this post at home in the wee hours of the morning, and scheduled it to go live during the work day so more folks would see it on Crimespot. Come to think of it, I did the same thing with this response. Impressive, no?

So long time no hear! Drop me an e-mail sometime and let me know how stuff's going!

Pidge said...

Actually, Ann and I are working together and we were just wanting to give you some props for actually following through with your dreams of writing a mystery novel (or several)...since neither of us has actually done anything quite so productive.

Congrats. And clearly, we aren't one to talk about writing during work hours since we spent time looking you up. :)

Chris said...

Tell her I say hi, would you? And until I'm on the shelf at Borders, that dream's gonna seem a long ways off...

Pidge said...

Oh...that was my next question. Where can we get the books to check them out? Not in stores at all? Still impressive that you wrote them and you have an agent. How cool is THAT!!

Lyman Feero said...

Chris,

Never forget the "crack" value of writing a short. Books are all well and good but sometimes it's fun to get that buzz of hitting beginning to end in a couple days. Of course, this is coming from a guy who seems to be on the six year plan to finishing his first book.

What with getting back into the playwriting game, it might just be seven years.

Chris said...

Lyman,

Whenever people ask why anyone would write shorts when there's no money in it, I think back to a comedian who did a bit on why he felt bad for people who didn't smoke. He said they have no idea what it's like to want something that badly... and get it, over and over again.

The problem is, once you're hooked, it's hard to focus on the long odds game of writing novels. But novels are the form I prefer to read, and they're the form I prefer to write. Hence my grappling with the issue of patience.

Conduit said...

I haven't written a short in ages. I've started several, but not finished any. But I'm now at the shallow end of (another) new novel, so it might be a while before I have another go.

I know what you mean about having stuff out on sub - I wind up doing that thing where I'm checking my email, thinking "Maybe there's word ... no ... how about now? ... hmm ... now? ... or now? ... or maybe what about riiiiight now? ... arse ... now?"

Chris said...

I, of course, have no idea what you're talking about with regard to e-mail, Stuart. It's just a coincidence I managed to reply moments after you posted this.

Patrick Shawn Bagley said...

I haven't written a short story since May, and probably won't attempt another for a while yet. I love shorts, but want to focus on novels right now.

Chris said...

Sounds like you and me are in the same boat, Patrick.

Lyman Feero said...

What I have found helpful is to use the short story as a mini-lab for issues I'm having with my novel. Doesn't even have to be the same genre as long as the characters have to deal with the same crap. Makes the book go faster than doing 15 million rewrites. The shorts usually end up in the "come back to it" folder though one is out in the wild as we speak.

As of today my wip is at 73k words. Figure I'm within 30k of being done the first draft. 11 shorts have spun off from it.

Chris said...

A science-dork writing metaphor -- now that's something I can get behind! Actually, I think this is a fantastic idea, but tell me, do you do it consciously, or does it just sort of happen? I ask because I often find that devices, character traits, and narrative twists I use in shorts find my way into my novels, but I never set out with that as my goal.

And congrats, Lyman. 73k ain't nothing to sniff at. Here's hoping the last 30k are a breeze.

Lyman Feero said...

A lot of the shorts that come from the novel are aspects of backstory that are necessary for character development that never make it into the novel.

Some of them are intentionally written to get at a specific problem. For example, I had a character that was held captive in a room. I needed to get that character outside the room but was having trouble with his motivation. So I took his character and put it in a situation that was over the top. The character wound up in a room that was wall to wall buttons. Some when pushed yielded pain, others pleasure. He eventually gets out but at great personal cost. Boom, I took that experience and applied it to the character's current situation in the novel and came up with what I believe to be a strong action based scene.

Most people just shake their head because this at first glance appears to be a lot of extra work when I could just trudge through the novel.

Chris said...

Extra work, perhaps -- but it's easy to wind up paralyzed by indecision when you're pondering a bold move, an unanticipated act. What I like about your workshoppy solution is, those decisions often result in the most exciting writing of the book, and getting to try it out first in short form frees you to take that leap.

ink and beans said...

I'd swear I'm an "acceptance junkie" too except that I've never been accepted for publication! Stil, I think I can relate. Just yesterday I heard from a prof. of mine who I've been trying to get to read some of my novel for years. He finally has, and not only did he love it but I could tell he was taken aback. Now THAT'S a reaction I get a jones for, and I even remember the last time I inspired similar surprise (a little less than a year ago). Keep it coming world!

Chris said...

Ink and Beans (James, is it?),

Believe me, you're among friends here. I don't know exactly what wire went faulty with us folks, but that validation-high is what makes a writer write (or at least write to be read). Best of luck with the novel!

Barrie said...

I'm all about goals you have some kind of control over. You should see my list of New Year's resolutions! Good luck with your submissions. (Oh yeah, I popped over from Patti's blog.)

Chris said...

Thanks for the well-wishes, Barrie, and for stopping by!