Novel vs. Short Story

I work in Corporate America in a swiftly growing department in an ever-expanding industry. Within this subset, we have almost every negative stereotype of the Corporate world: aloof upper management, the villainous and heartless vice president making ill-informed decisions, the lazy slacker with an excuse for everything (including why he will take up to three 30+ minute lunches in a day), the two workers who cannot stand each other, changing loyalties, the shrew who thinks everyone is out to get her (which is true — she’s a psychotic burden to the world at large), another upstart department trying to steal our work, and one particular team member (aforementioned shrew) personally attacking yours truly because she wants my position.

To get away from the stress of such a terrible situation, I will play video games, watch a whole lot of movies, daydream, read, and write. I love to read, yet I frequently get wrapped up in the stories I make up in my head.

Writing to escape stress isn’t always effective. My first published novel was a nightmare. It was a terrible experience, sometimes so bad that I wondered if publication, a lifelong dream, was worth it. My escape, my joy, had become the very thing I was trying to escape. I loved what I had written, but all the joy was being sapped out of it. There were formatting changes which were my fault but needed to be corrected. Whatever style I had was constantly challenged in an effort (I thought) to homogenize my novel to the expected audience.

Sometimes, these challenges were totally correct. I can get wordy and may have some sort of synesthesia, so that letters and words have colors, textures, tastes, and feels. So do emotions, music, tastes, etc. It’s been that way my whole life. When I was a kid I was surprised to find out that some people actually saw nothing but black and white letters when they wrote and read. I was teased when I mentioned that the letter A, for instance, was red. T has an orange color. Words will combine the colors of the letters to take on a varied hue which represents the feel of the word to me. Made up, psychotic, neurological syndrome, whatever…it happens. But, as an honest child with no filter, I mentioned this to the other kids and was teased horribly. Thankfully, I changed schools a lot when I was a kid and so I left the teasing behind but kept with me the thought that I should suppress this “weird association problem” (as my insensitive step-cousin described it when we were very young).

It comes out in my writing. And that was seen as a stylistic blight, a parasite which needed to be suppressed. The horror was that I WAS suppressing it. Was my editor right? Probably. Well…no. Almost certainly she was right. Given the reactions I experienced when I was a kid, I imagine that few people would understand that “sorrow” has a feeling, a texture, and a color. The word “parcel” feels good on the sides of my tongue and has a light metallic taste and (not surprisingly) feels like the crinkling of brown paper. This sounds like LSD-induced insanity. I realize this. (Look up synesthesia on Wikipedia. It’s a real thing I only recently found out actually has a name and wasn’t necessarily a “weird association problem”) But suppressing this and reeling it in was smart but painful. I know that it swiftly reaches the point of absurdity for a reader.

What made it worse was the conclusion that, given the genre I was writing in, I would never be able to let go. I did partially, and a lot of it made it in the novel, but it was a learning experience. There were other things, not all learning experiences, that reeked of pointless, arbitrary dogma. I still feel that way and, when talking to another highly regarded author in this genre, I had my feelings validated. But, I realized that I had to play by the rules my publisher set, and that while I didn’t expect to make much money off the novel, that they needed it to be as lucrative as possible. They didn’t publish me out of pity. They did it because they thought my novel would sell a reasonable amount.

I was disenchanted, but I still love to write. I was caught in this place where writing, previously my beloved escape, was as stressful or more so than my hateful day job.

Fuck that! Why would I willingly put myself through that bullshit when I wasn’t exactly going to make a living off writing gay novels? I didn’t need to do it, so why would I put myself through some crap just to see my (fake) name in print?

Well, the answer is that I love writing. I would do it if I never published another sentence in my life.

So, when inspiration hit, I knuckled out a short story, submitted it, and had it accepted. I was really scared about the editing process, the marketing process, and have approached the whole business with fear and suspicion.

I don’t know what has changed. Did I reel it in? Did I know what was expected and so automatically moved toward that while keeping my stylistic integrity? Was the short story format allowing me to funnel everything? Was it the editor? Was it all dramatics? Or was it experience and my love for writing that helped me out?

Whatever combination of these things it was, this short story process was ridiculously easy, freeing, happy, and a pleasure. I learned without getting all butt hurt and sensitive or feeling that I was being shoved into a box, homogenized, and made to be like everyone else. In truth, I never lost the desire to write, but it was beaten down quite a bit. This has revitalized me.

I hope the short story, “The Snow Queen” on sale separately and in the anthology in late April (23rd), is well liked and well received. I hope it leads to many more with this publisher, with other publishers, and even helps me break into mainstream (as part of a hopefully growing and improving body of work). But in the end, I wrote it for me. And it was not like my day job. It wasn’t painful. It was great. It was, essentially, like that perfect job you always daydream about but don’t think actually exists.

Now, if I can only manage to make this my day job, all the colorful, tasty words can flow forth from me. And I will love every second of it.

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~ by Darren Endymion on March 31, 2014.

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