Well, alright, alright, alright, I wrote a draft of a short story. Based on something my oldest said when he came into my office, “Imagine a soldier deployed gets a call that his spouse has died,” which I turned into a military sci-fi story, sort of. It’s kind of funny–I don’t read a lot in the genre of military sci-fi. Well, not counting The Hero (2016), Halo: First Strike (2011), Robotech Genesis/Battle Cry/Homecoming (2016), Titan AE (2020)…. Okay, I read some, and I read a lot of men’s adventure novels with a military bent. So of course I mash them up. My next novel is likely to be a military sci-fi book–I already have a first chapter, almost, I think, and the rudiments of an outline in my mind.
You know, I have written, what, five poems since November 2019 (and recently got my first rejection for them from a publication!). I hadn’t written a poem in years, either, but I finally finished off the one that’s incomplete on the cover of Coffee House Memories and then had some late night ideas for others, and I took to laundromats and coffee houses to scratch them out.
I have a new technique for writing poetry–maybe it’s the same as my old technique–it’s been so long that I might not remember, but judging by my old notebooks, this is a new technique: I write the opening lines and subsequent lines over and over again. When I get to a spot where I’ve stalled on progress, I re-write the poem from top to bottom. I make some minor changes, but then, hopefully, I surge onto the next lines until I am finished (which, granted, is sometimes weeks or months later–whenever I get back to the coffee shop).
This, of course, is no way to write fiction, either long or short.
When I was younger–college or thereabouts–I could sit down and pretty much plow through a draft of a short story with no problem. Of course, in those days, I was often writing short stories when I should have been writing papers for school. But I wrote them pretty much straight through with confidence that they would come out okay and that people would want to read what I wrote.
Well, fast forward a couple of decades. I managed to, over the course of a couple of years, write a novel that I thought was pretty good (John Donnelly’s Gold–which I still think is pretty good). I could not get an agent nor a publisher for it–and aside from a couple of publications in the middle 1990s (“Reading Faces” in Show and Tell–for which I got paid $5, brah–and “Small Bore Gun” in Artisan Journal in 1997), all I got for my short story submissions were rejection slips (apparently, I have not yet done a feature on my collection of rejection slips, which fills a 3″ binder). So my confidence has been shaken.
I mean, I have banged out some nonfiction articles about software testing, some in actual printed publications, but nonfiction is pretty linear when it comes to writing. Fiction is… different.
I have a couple of short stories that I’ve started but never finished. One, called “Gunter Escapes”, is on its second decade of incompleteness by this point. Another, “The Understanding”, is only a couple of years old. And the military sci-fi novel, The Saviors from Mars Deep (working title) is only a couple of years old. Surely not five (right?).
On each of the incomplete fiction pieces, I’ve gotten to a certain point and have really gotten stuck. On some, I’m unsure what to add or what to take out. I would reflect on the paragraphs I’d written and get hung up on them to the point of immobility. It’s not like writing the poems, where I can rewrite the whole thing to build the momentum again. So I put it aside. I put a lot of things aside and for long blocs of time. Sometimes, it seems, decades.
So with this last short story, I said damn the torpedoes and vowed to bang out a complete draft even if some paragraphs were only sentences. A couple of times I got to that point where I would put it up and abandon it, but I stuck through and finished a draft. Even though I am pretty sure the last half of it reads more like an outline with a couple character names in it.
But it’s done. Now I can revise it to shuffle in some better prose, characterization, description, and whatnot.
Except, I’m a little afraid to look at it right now.
I have printed it out, and it’s on my desk and has been for a week now. I have not read it nor started in with the red pen.
I should probably do so before it gets cast aside for a really long period. Maybe I’ll have my oldest read it first to see what he thinks of it. After all, it was his idea.
I’m trying to find this an encouraging step to the return of my dream of being a Writer, but once the story is revised and done, will any publication accept it? Will anyone read it?
Time will tell, but probably, no.