The Dreaded Wait

On Saturday I submitted the short story I recently completed for an anthology call with my publisher. I feel as good about it as I can. Being the harsh inner critic I always am, I feel that it was cramped and a little rushed for the ideas I wanted to cram into 10,000 words. In the words of my beta reader, I was on my way to kicking the ending’s ass, but had to rein it in to meet the requirements. I think I did everything I could, and this is only the third short story I have ever written, so there’s still a lot of learning to do.

I like the short form; I just wish I was better at it. My publisher churns out a lot of very short fiction: lots of short stories, novelettes, several novellas, and a few novels. I have not taken a survey or a count, but it seems as though the vast majority are about 200 pages or less. I’m not going to make a case for that being difficult to build rounded characters in that time, but I am merely going to express my admiration for those who can complete  an entire story in that span. 200 pages is a lot, depending on your aim.

30…not so much. It seems like a lot, but it’s difficult to make a lot happen in that time. I believe my problem is that I try to cram so much into a short period. When writing a short story, I think of Stephen King’s short story collections. I think of “Gray Matter”, where a bad beer turns an alcoholic father into a blob of gray, cannibalistic ooze. I think of “The Moving Finger” where there is a finger sticking out of the toilet which grows and grows and the steadily crazed man hacks it to pieces. And I think of “Suffer the Little Children” in which a severe school teacher finds that demons or aliens are taking over her school children…and what she does in response.

These stories are situational. You have a feeling for the characters, but it doesn’t matter what they like to eat or what their love life is like, or what the most disappointing point in their lives were. These stories are situational. The important things here are that one person is turning into a hungry, gelatinous blob; that there is a relentless, elongated finger with no seeming source coming out of the sewer; and that this teacher is seeing evil things behind the faces of her students…and may or may not be crazy. These aren’t King’s greatest stories by any stretch, but neither are they character driven. They are about what happens and in a secondary manner, who they happen to.

I think I would do well to remember that in my short story writing, and though characters can never be called unimportant, sometimes the story is the best part. What happens is the important part. The longer ones (“The Mist”, “Jerusalem’s Lot”, “The Body”, etc. are more about characters…but what happens to them is the most important part. It’s what we are all reading for.)

Thinking about all this helps kill the time. It helps me think about what I will do with the next short story, about how I will make the next one better and the one after that better still. It helps me not look at my e-mail 75 times a day. It helps me think that I am in control of my emotions and thoughts. It distracts me from knowing that very soon, someone will be reading my short story and judging it. It distracts me from the thought that I don’t believe that I did my absolute best. It makes me not dwell on the thought that maybe I should have removed it from contention and made it a novelette.

It makes the waiting easier.

In the meantime, what helps more than anything, is to dream of a better future, and to dream of what the next story will be like.

It helps with the dreaded wait.

~ by Darren Endymion on February 16, 2015.

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