I dropped a story in the mail today. Well okay, today's Sunday. So I put a story in an envelope, sealed it, and put it by the door. Same thing. This baby hasn't been exposed to the mean, cruel world out there yet--on the upside, it hasn't garnered a single rejection yet! I'm sending it to Fantasy and Science Fiction, which Duotrope lists as one of the twenty-five hardest markets to crack. Go me.
I revised it until I thought it was as good as I could get it. Then I revised it until I thought I couldn't revise it any more. Then I revised it some more. Lots more. I've lost my first draft somewhere along the way, but I'd say I've culled two thousand words from this sucker.
You know? I think I'm getting halfway decent at this revision thing. Time will tell, but I feel as though the words, clauses, and sentences that aren't moving the story forward and need to go are starting to jump out at me. Maybe not compared to people who aren't naturally as given to overwriting as I am, but certainly compared to where I was a year or two ago.
Some day I need to look back and chart my [past] course. I'm vaguely aware that at different times over the last few years I've focused heavily on different elements of my craft, and I've seen improvement in each. I've got to think that sooner or later I'll reach the point that pushes me over the top, and makes me good enough to be professionally published. All I have to do is keep working at it.
I'm a bit torn right now over what to do next. I've got an old short story that I love that I'm thinking I ought to revise and send out. I've got a much newer short story that probably already has a lot more polish, that would probably take less effort to get out the door. I'm also feeling the urge to write something new. And then of course there's Vanishing Act. Most folks would tell me that should be my highest priority, but here's the thing: I can have one of my already-written shorts out the door in a week or two. I can have a new story written and ready to go in not much longer. Vanishing Act is going to take a lot more work. Doesn't it make more sense to do that work while some stories are out and circulating, looking for print homes? And if one of my stories should actually get bought, wouldn't that make my novel query that much stronger?
Who knows. One thing I do know is that I have learned a lot by focusing on my short stories. Short stories require a level of tightness that people tend to think novels can get away with lacking. If I hadn't focused on my shorts for the past year, maybe I'd be in that camp. Instead, I've learned lessons that I think will help my longer fiction, and that I think make me a better critter for others as well.
Now it's time to go apply them.
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