Monday, October 28, 2013

Gone to Soundcloud and Exploring Trunked Work

So, I took an afternoon and voice-recorded a short story of mine, "Gone to Earth," about which I have been proud and happy since I originally wrote it a few years back. It won honorable mention in a Writer's Digest contest (although I have this sneaking feeling that WD contests are just profitmongers and it's actually a meaningless honor), but nooooobody wants it. It's been submitted something like 15 times. Every so often I get fed up with it and move it to my Retired folder, but then after a year I'll read it again and go "Dammit, this thing is good," and dust it off for another round of rejections. No more. I recorded it and that's how it's going into the world.

A bit of backstory: The idea is mine, but I stole the title from a book by Mary Webb, which was pretty successful in its day but has fallen almost entirely into obscurity. This book contains the worst, most incomprehensible dialect of any book I have ever read. And the story feels a little, er...obsolete. But I loved the title, loved what it implied. In the book, the title is something of a metaphor about the main character, her pet fox, and her eventual self-sacrifice, but in my story it's slightly more literal.

"Gone to Earth" is about 4,500 words, and that turned out to be 25 minutes of audio and a whole afternoon's work in recording. I trimmed it a bit, and it's down to 22 minutes, but I don't blame you if you don't click below. Even 22 minutes feels too long to me.

So I'm looking for shorter pieces to record. I have a couple of little nonfictions that I'll probably try, but I want to do a sprinkling of both, fiction and non, and so I looked at some of the longer pieces I've written to see if I can scalpel out stuff that's 3K or less. Seeking excerpts that stood on their own, I ended up skimming two novels I've written and decided to trunk - the time book and the Greenland book - and boy, was that a strange trip.

Both books are probably better trunked for now. I don't like some of the characters in the time book enough to rewrite it with the same people, and it simply won't do as it is. I might rewrite it with the same kind of fantasy-universe rules, but with different characters and a different situation. Kind of taking patches from what exists but sewing a whole new quilt. Some of that book does stand on its own, and there's a short piece from it that I'm probably going to record. There's also a 14,000-word patch (Clara's journal/story, for those of you who've read it) that is one of my favorite things that I've written, but which I'm pretty sure no one but me can love.

Meanwhile, the Greenland book...oh, brother. I'm astonished by the scope of that book and by how inadequately I executed it. It contains reams of Victorian-style exposition text, all of which should have been translated into actual scenes where things happen rather than telling the audience all about it after the fact.

Thing is, I'm kind of dumbfounded by the extent of the universe I created in this book. I made a whole language! Seriously! And I'm still so compelled by the characters. Maybe it's a rookie move to fall in love with your characters as you're writing them, but it's what I do every time I write something worth reading, and that love was still so strong for all three of my main characters as I skimmed over the Greenland book.

I don't think I'm ready to rewrite it yet, but I am determined to do so someday. I think it will wind up very long in its eventual incarnation. Epical. There are well over a dozen secondary characters, all of whom have specific roles to play. I definitely did not make each of these characters clear in the version that exists, and I don't want the reader to get (too) confused, so I might build whole storylines for them and end up with an opus of Game of Thrones length once I'm finished.

What else is happening...I still haven't found time to set aside for writing new stuff, and it's starting to wear on my well-being. I have more story ideas than I know what to do with. Some good friends are moving away from L.A. for new adventures, leaving me and Matt pretty bereft. My group won a poetry contest in my English class, and as a prize, I got a sticker that looks like this:

Artist: Peter Nevins. More good stuff at

I'd be best served by sticking it over my computer screen, I think - particularly to block out Facebook, if such a thing is possible - but I might put it on my car.

Got a painful rejection yesterday, but the less said about it the better. All part of the cycle. Find new market, resubmit, rinse, repeat.

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