Suffice it to say, but the title of this blog refers to my continuing Shootout experience.
I'm getting creamed in the ratings. Results for the second round have just been released, and I can no longer pretend that my effort so far has exhibited me in the best possible light.
Maybe it sounds a little presumptive, but based on the twelve other writers I've read so far, I would go so far as to say that I ought to be in the top ten percent in scoring. I'm currently languishing in the bottom ten. It's all due to my efforts. The first story was shorter than it should have been, a victim of my extensive Sigild conditioning since last year, and the reviews pointed out exactly where I went wrong. The second story was a more honest effort, but it still left too much to the reader's imagination, a victim of assuming too many things on my part. Readers don't like ambiguity.
One of the things I had resolved after the first round was to write something longer for the second, and I more or less did. I had some fun with it, but in all honesty I let it get away from me when I realized what I wanted to do with it. A better writer probably would have rewritten it on the spot, but sometimes I can become attached to material that deserves to be scrapped. I'm usually reluctant to rewrite, but I've done my share of it, not the whole piece, but the parts that need it. Sometimes that changes everything, as I draw up a whole new picture to better suit my intentions. Sometimes I start over several times, and once I get the beginning to a point where I'm satisfied, everything else just starts to flow (or so I imagine). Mostly I hate rewriting, though. I'll be honest.
Anyway, so I wrote my story for the third round in much the fashion that I've written the other entries, not so long after reading the prompt. Except this time I resolved to not stop writing until the story had really come to an appropriate resolution, and I felt I had explored the story to its necessary potential. I ended up, again, with something slightly longer than the last time. (At this rate, I'll be one of those participants that I hate to read, droning on for ten pages when there are five other stories to get through.)
The Sigild reference, so you don't actually have to explore it yourself, means that I have spent a great deal of time recently believing that a page constitutes a worthy effort. For some people, that would actually be good enough. Some people, like me, think a short story that goes on for twenty-six pages is not really a short story, but a chapter. (Yes, Monorama has short stories that go on for many pages. I claim the right of hypocrisy!)
Except sometimes to grow as a writer, you literally have to write more. I'm discovering that for me, this means something different than it does to others. You've all heard the common advice: write every day. I don't particularly agree with that, but it's surely worthwhile to write often.
On my Twitter feed, I recently tweeted that I had titled the chapters for my next book. For me, something that simple can make a huge difference. It's as important, when a book needs names for chapters, as naming the characters or the book itself. If I've at a particular crossroads as to how exactly to approach it, chapter titles can make all the difference in the world, especially since I'm a nut about having a particular scheme in mind, borrowing them from certain sources, certain contexts. (Hey, the whole manuscript for Finnegan got its chapter titles from "Bad," a song by U2 off their The Unforgettable Fire album.) Another project is currently sitting on my computer with much the same naming scheme as I just described for Seven Thunders, and that helped a great deal there, too. I'm a writer who sometimes need to gimmick his stories to make them more interesting than they might otherwise be. (Yoshimi has this running gimmick in it that forced a different interpretation than I'd originally had for the actions sequences. Hopefully my publisher for it sees the gimmick the same way I do.) My point being in this aside, my writing process is a little weird.
If the third round turns out better for me, I'll be thanking Dave Barry, by the way. I think we ought to thank him for everything, but for this particular story, I doubt I would have written it without him.