The Ebb

Cabin Life

I’m in a deep ebb for writing fiction. A few things at play… I had to “trunk” Crystal Grove. Nothing could save the story even after countless hours of writing and revising. I love the characters and certain scenes, but my “go back and add shit here and there” approach failed. It reads like 3 different people with 3 different ideas wrote the damn thing. As a last ditch effort, I tried to send it to Reedsy editors for an evaluation and suggestions… no one accepted the assignment. The last section is much stronger than the first two and might stand on its own. Or, the viewpoint of a secondary character could make for a stand-alone story… but for now, it’s trunked. Dead.

Trunking CG sapped my enthusiasm. I have two stories out to publishers; they’ve been in the can for over six months. I quite like “Wasted Crisis” and it should find a home. The process is so frustrating, with months and months of waiting and then a form email rejecting the piece. And the builds on other frustrations about where are the right places to submit to and to target… few journals look for realistic, non-emotional short fiction. It’s hard to picture the right places for the work to live.

Compounding the issue is my lack of a WIP. I wrote a few brief stories a few weeks ago, one featuring a security officer in post-secession West Palm Beach and a better one about wizards in post-industrial New Jersey. They get to join the backlog of stories that need editing and work, along with Mags Hotel, two leprechaun stories, The Valley and a smattering of other tales. As I’ve written about before, my struggle with resistance is around editing, not writing. Happy to write all day, but revising…

I’ve spent my morning writing sessions with a deck of prompts from Writing Down the Bones. They are brilliant and useful questions. The prompts promote writing with genuine emotion and truth. I certainly can use more of this and the prompts are useful… but I can’t write to them every day. And I’m on my second week of nothing but prompts. I should only use them as filler or when I’m in-between work, not as a month-long assignment.

The last piece of my ennui pie is the work required to start my next piece. I’m going back to Unfair Advantage. After visiting West Palm for the first time in over two years, I found the shell of the second and final part to UA. But, in one of my lessons learned from CG and other work, I’m not writing anything until I have an outline and the conclusion worked out. Fully. By fully, I mean no parts that I can’t explain fully to myself. And pass the sniff tests in terms of interest and rising tension and all the other basic components of writing that I chose to only loosely follow until now. I’ll outline differently than previously… I didn’t like the very formulaic spreadsheet outline with fifteen column headers. I will try the James Paterson approach (ignoring the negativity around his writing… that claim may make the case for following his outlines stronger, not weaker) or writing the outline out per scene/chapter, but in paragraph form. And keep asking myself “and then what happens…” and keep throwing obstacles at Eileen. Would love to bounce ideas off of someone with experience in story writing… but I haven’t cultivated that community yet. And not having the plot points stops me from outlining, which blocks the writing.

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