Saturday, September 4, 2010

The Giant Dipper's Done Parked

Wild week. Beginning of the new semester at the joe job, plus I finished up that novella I mentioned in The Roller Coaster's Heartbeat. That happened at about 2:30 a.m. Friday morning. A few hours sleep, then some baby time, and I was back at work by 10 a.m. that morning. You could have stuck a fork in me by Friday night, because I was definitely as done as a charred T-bone steak... but I felt good. The novella ended up at more than 13k, and I'm happy with it. We'll see what the editor says once he has a look.

He did send me an email that read (in part): "And you said this was going to be 5k words. Hah, I say! Hah!" I have to echo the laughter on that score. I've been publishing fiction for more than twenty years, and you'd think by now I'd be better at gauging the length of a piece when I start to work. Nope. The longer I do this, the less I know on that score. This holds true for last few years, especially. Stories just seem to swell. The ideas, the characters, the action... and the pages. And, as with this piece, before long I realize I'm writing a novella instead of a short story.

Part of the deal is simple: When I started out editors would tell me, "Norm, you've got 5,000 words. I can't take anything longer than that." I was forced to tailor my story accordingly. But that was okay. It helped me to learn to write economically. That's a very valuable lesson for a young writer.

These days, editors usually just ask me for a submission. They don't set a word count. I still write economically (I like to think so, anyway), but somehow my stories expand. A side character may shoulder his way into a bigger part, or I'll realize I need another scene, or... Well, you get the idea.

I don't look at this as bad news. It's actually good news. As a young writer, I used to think I needed bigger ideas to create a novel. More characters, more plot, more everything. I don't really believe that anymore. Now I'm thinking all I have to do is cut the cinches and let an idea rip. Most of them will do the growing on their own, and that's just fine with me.

Anyway, we'll see what happens on that score. Right now I've got another short story in mind.

At least, I think it's a short story.

Once I start rattling the keyboard, I may have a surprise in store.