It's been a tough year, publishing-wise. It started out with high hopes and
a swirl of good news, only for it to slowly evaporate as the months dragged
on. Dark times call for soul-searching. As I was wandering through the foggy corridors of the interior, I came eyeball-to-eyeball with a surprising (to me) fact: I have been submitting stories, essays and novels to literary journals and agents and contests on a consistent basis for almost twenty years. That means for nearly half my life I've been on tenterhooks, awaiting responses on submissions -- trapped in a perpetual state of hope.
I'm starting to wonder if hope might not be an addictive substance, as damaging as the most seductive narcotic. Does that sound cynical? Perhaps. But bear with me as I examine some side effects of hope. I find myself constantly checking email, waiting for a response. Good news, when it comes, is inevitably buried under drifts of bad news. And even when there is good news, the high it produces is never as strong as I imagine it should be. Through it all, what does hope imbue me with most? Paralysis -- a sense of constantly waiting for things to change. I'm a hope-junky.
So it's time to go cold turkey. My resolution, if that's what you want to call it, is to go for an entire year without submitting one piece of writing. No contests, no lit journals, no queries. There's still a backlog of submitted pieces, which should take a few months to work its way out of the submission process bloodstream -- so it probably won't be until this summer that hope will be officially purged from my system. Then I'll be able to experience life without hope. I'm calling this experiment a submission-fast. (My freelance work is exempt from this fast due to the fact that I'm not subjecting those pieces to judgment. They're already commissioned, so the people paying me for them don't really have a choice. And I don't have to hope that they'll get accepted.)
What do I expect to accomplish from this? Aesceticism aside, the expectation is that by spending some time with absolutely no thoughts of submission, of purging the notion of hope from my psyche, I'll see if in fact it's better to live without it. Do I feel better day-to-day, not needing to check my email? Do I sleep better at night, not thinking if I should have put something else in a cover letter? Most importantly, will I be more productive with my time, not having to spend hour upon hour looking for submission sites and preparing the submissions? A positive side effect might also be to get back to writing for the sheer thrill of it. After all, if you don't expect anyone to ever see what you're writing, that can be liberating to write whatever the hell you want.
That's why I'm doing this. I'll report back as the year unfolds.
It's been a while in the making, but I've finally gotten my latest short story polished to the point where it's ready for submissions.
This story's been interesting from a process standpoint, in the sense that almost all the key elements of it have been on the page from the first draft, but the order and emphasis of those points were what I had to toy with in revisions. Which secondary characters do I need to play up or play down? At what point should this character do X? It's been the kind of story that plays to my sense of experimentation and tinkering. Probably the biggest change has been the title. From fairly early on I was calling it "Parachutist," which was a title I like for its obliqueness and originality. But very near the end of my revising, I realized that that title reflected a facet of the story that had long been revised out and to keep it would only serve to confuse. Thus, I switched to "The Tourist." Not as bold, perhaps, as my earlier title, but it definitely reflects what the story is now about.
Funnily enough, in my Tumblr blog a long while back I posted the opening paragraph of this story and was all braggy about how good I thought it was. Turns out I've kept only a fraction of the language in that original intro and it's now buried somewhere on page 3. Just goes to show that you have to be willing to make sacrifices for the sake of your stories.
Anyway, the first sortie is now away! (Gotta love electronic submissions!) Now, for me, it's back to the freelancing. Stay tuned for responses.
I recently picked up a freelancing opportunity where I'll be writing introductory essays for literary anthologies. One of them is the Literature of Propaganda and the other is the Literature of Manifesto. The essays themselves are heavily proscribed pieces, in which every paragraph has a specific thesis and strict word count. Writing them ends up being more of a puzzle-building exercise than any kind of creative process. But the challenge is fairly enjoyable so far.
Of course, the fiction has had to take a backseat because of this project. Which is turning out to be a bit of a sacrifice because I've got a new short story working its way through the pipeline and I'm itching to get it wrapped up. Fortunately, most of the big short story outlets seem to be closed to submissions until the fall, so I'm hoping to get the time to put the finishing touches on it this August and start sending it out in September.
This is a repository for all my semi-filtered thoughts on... blah, blah, blah.