Saturday, June 28, 2008

Kitteh update, and Storage

Animal update:  Everyone is doing great.  Kat (lately dubbed Kitten) has shown the most improvement.  She's fully recovered from her spay surgery, is active, very playful, her face has healed up, and she has a nice shiny coat.  Every morning she runs around the house like a mad thing and attacks anything that moves and sometimes even things that don't (but perhaps they're thinking about moving.)  When she meets (and attacks) a person she'll usually hang out for a few minutes with her signature inquiries.  Breet?  Meet!  Moot?  Mmm!  And if it's me I answer in kind.  She's been annoyed by my lack of making the bed properly, though.  As all right-thinking breets know, making the bed is very important and she needs to be there running around under the blankets to make sure it's done right.  I don't know what I'd do without her.

In writing news, I've sent off another story.  I tell you, e submissions sure make it (relatively) painless.  Right now I'm just trying to keep all my 'current' stories out there.  I'm still writing on the new story too.  There's a couple of older stories that have been haunting me and I'm thinking about rewriting one from scratch to see what happens and polishing the other.  

I know quite a few writers surrender older stories to dust heaps and I'm all for that, provided that they're confident that they're abandoning things that no one wants to see.  Stories that have already made the rounds are especially toss-worthy.  Don't clutter the slush piles with them, please.

I'm wild-guessing that I've written maybe a hundred short stories and most of those are on floppy disks, best left forgotten.  Some, like an old SF I wrote called The Emperor's Mistress, exist only in hard copy and if anything happened to that copy, it'd be gone forever.  Those were written on a contraption called a typewriter.  It's sort of like a keyboard but there's no monitor and you have to use a special kind of paint to fix mistakes.  I kid you not.  Anyway, there are a few of those older stories (The Emperor's Mistress is one of them, actually) that haunt me.  Divided is another.  That one killed two magazines.  (They both folded after acceptances.  One acceptance actually arrived a day before I got the letter that said oops, sorry, turns out we're closing up shop and can't print your story after all.  If only the first letter had a check enclosed ...)  

There's another funny story I've probably told before about Divided.  I got a glowing acceptance from an editor saying she missed her bus stop three times reading the story.  Now if that's not grabbing a reader, I don't know what is.  When I got the next letter in the mail I was sure it had a contract enclosed, but it was a regular legal envelope and pretty thin so it had me baffled.  Inside there was a letter from the senior editor.  He said he didn't know what his assistant editor was thinking.  He would not publish that story in the magazine, sorry about any grief it may have caused.  

Thinking back I know what killed it.  Length.  It was 13,000 words, essentially a novella.  The prose probably wasn't that great either, considering when I wrote it, but the story had all kinds of potential and if I'd written it even a little shorter, written it cleaner, it might have gotten past the senior editor.  If I'd written it a lot shorter, it might have been a real winner.  I couldn't have known that then.  I know that now.

Those old stories aren't wasted effort.  Some are steps on a ladder and never will achieve anything more for you.  Others, though, are more than just a step.  They're something special.

I will always be a pack rat when it comes to my early stuff.  Heck, my poor put-upon beloved husband has to deal with me keeping my old math exams.  In my defense, when you've put an hour and six pages into a single calculation and get it right, if it can't be framed it ought to at least have a place of honor in a file box.  Some of the other stuff I packrat isn't so defensible, hence the put-upon part.  Nonetheless, the concept is this--as cheap and compact as electronic storage is these days, and since it's almost impossible at the time of writing to tell if you've written crap or written something that will haunt you twenty years later, it might behoove you to hang on to it, just in case.  Not just in case you die and become famous, but because some seeds take longer to germinate than others.  I read (not sure if it's correct) that some seeds of domesticated roses take as long as ten years to germinate.  Think about that.  A rose breeder hand pollinates several flowers between two specific roses, encloses their heads in bags so that no other pollen reaches them from other roses to contaminate his breeding experiment, waits for them to develop over a winter, pulls off the dried hips, plants the seeds inside, and waits up to ten years to see if he has the next Double Delight.  (If you don't have this rose and you have room for roses, get it, grow it, love it.)  Sometimes roses, like other plants, form sports and some of our roses come from those, but growing from seeds created from controlled pollination is still the rose breeder's secret dream--to conspire with nature to create something never before seen, something to behold in awe.  

Writers can produce great work in a short amount of time, but some of that work, no matter how speedy they are, just takes time to reach its full potential.  When I wrote Divided, I simply did not have the skill to pull it off.  I also had no idea whether it was a keeper until experience in the business side of the writing world made me realize how exceptional the responses were to that story.  Now that we have a storage medium that is essentially bottomless, I see no reason not to keep everything.  Every blessed word.  In twenty years you'll realize that 80% or more is crap, but the rest, the rest is why we write at all.


The Moody Minstrel said...

I remember "Divided". I always thought it to be a very intriguing story, and it sometimes comes to mind even now. (I don't remember when and how I came to read it...or whether I have a copy in my collection...but I definitely remember the story.)

Kami said...

That's great! I'm hoping to tackle it as an older, possibly even wiser, Kami and make it really shine.