Lately Published Versus Lately Working

It’s tempting to observe a writer’s work as it’s published and think that’s what they’ve been working on lately. Very often, I’ve learned, the lag between finishing a story and seeing it published can be quite long, even if the story is accepted right away by the first place it’s submitted. For any story that goes through a cycle of rejection and resubmission, this is even more so.

Readers observing a writer’s recently-published work might think they’ve just finished those stories, and maybe started a new one as well. More likely those stories were finished six or twelve or eighteen months ago. The writer probably has a whole bundle of new stuff in the pipeline.

So, what have I been working on that nobody’s seen yet?

May. I finished a longer story with significant self-reflexive or metafictional elements. It’s about a guy who owns an ambient music record label, and receives a strange, unmarked demo in the mail. This was written with an anthology in mind, ended up being rejected, so I’m looking for another place for it.

June. I started a weird little story about a husband who used to perform with the city’s orchestra, but had to quit due to vague mental problems and now stays shut in his room, and a wife whose reading group encourages her to give her husband a very unusual “gift” to cheer him up, or maybe to keep him from bothering her, so she’ll be free to go do other hings. By the end of the story I was unsatisfied with how I’d rendered this unusual arrangement. It came across like a crude male fantasy, almost exactly opposite what I’d intended. I decided to set the story aside and take another crack at it later.

July. I completed something for a themed anthology, a riff or loose sequel to a story by a well-known weird fiction writer. The editor seemed to like my story, and sent notes suggesting improvements. I need to finish those revisions and resubmit. My fingers are already crossed, as this anthology should be a great one.

Also in July, I started planning a novel, actually a series, though for now I’m mostly focusing on the first. The premise will have weird or supernatural elements, though it will mostly come across like a straightforward crime/thriller story, especially at first. I worked on characters and setting, a story arc, and ideas for where subsequent novels might go. Lots of Post-it notes stuck to a board, moved around, changed and rearranged.

August. I did a bit more work on the unfinished weird married couple story. Strengthened the wife’s character, made her reading group friends more interesting. I also tried to develop ideas to solve this story’s fundamental problem, and got part of the way there, but set it aside again.

Also in August, a busy month, I spent a few weeks writing “No Mask to Conceal Her Voice,” a story inspired by the work of Robert Chambers, for a special KIY-themed issue of Lovecraft eZine edited by Joseph S. Pulver Sr. I’d hoped to have this story finished before Lena and I went to Providence for the NecronomiCon, but didn’t quite reach the finish line. The convention was wonderful fun. Between preparation, travel, the con itself, return travel, and time spent recovering and returning to normal, it consumed well over a week.

As soon as I returned, I spent an intense week or so (including a full weekend shut in a room from morning to night) finishing up “No Mask…” The good news is, the story was immediately accepted, and should appear in a few months.

While at NecronomiCon, I received an invitation to submit to a small press. I said I’d like to expand one of my earlier, abandoned stories into a novella. This project has been my sole focus for the past six weeks or so. It’s tempting to think of anything less than novel length as “just a story,” but the fact is, a novella of almost 20,000 words is very different from a short story. It simply takes more time to write something that long. I also believe crafting a story on top of an existing framework takes longer than creating something from scratch. There’s something especially rewarding, though, about taking an idea I wanted to explore but could never quite figure out how to develop, and finding new ways to give it life. It’s very nearly finished. I’m very excited, and anxious to see if the editor likes it enough to publish.

I have several other things lined up to work on next. Maybe when I make some progress on those, I’ll post another “works in progress” installment like this one.

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2 thoughts on “Lately Published Versus Lately Working

  1. This is a great snapshot of what I consider a wider swatch of process. I often talk to my wife about how weird it is, being busy on art projects, but the things that get seen are months old and the current workings are months away from exposure. The hidden world of what was and will be.

  2. Hi Nick, thanks for the note!

    I think the “assembly line” is a little more straightforward with more established creative people, say someone like Stephen King who finishes a novel, then during the year it takes that novel to come to press, writes another, which is then published a year later.

    It’s different for people like us, who are getting our work out there in all different kinds of places, according to no fixed schedule, and sometimes creating work for invitation or commission, and other times creating stuff on spec and trying to find some outlet for it.

    Aside from my published stories, and a few to be published soon, I have stories that are finished and out on submission but not accepted yet, stories I finished but want to rework before I send them out, partially-finished stories set aside to let me work on something else or to let the idea mature, and a million fragments, sketches, outlines and tidbits that are only just starting the journey toward completion. I’m sure you have a similar range of work like that, aside from just the “finished but not yet released to the public” work.

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