Sunday, January 14, 2018

How I did it

Looking back on yesterday, when I went from start to acceptance of a short story in an hour and a half, I realize a number of things had to fall into place just right – which they did.
First, I obviously had to have a clear story idea in my head. I’m a total “panster” – I never outline a story – but I’ve found that when I get an idea it simmers on the back burner of my subconscious until it’s ready. I knew a man who once said when faced with a problem, rather than wracking your brain until you lose sleep, “drop it into the deep well of your unconscious cerebration. When the time comes it will rise to the surface.”
That works for me. Years ago I had the basic idea and plot for what ultimately became my Sidewise award finalist short story “Great White Ship” simmering on that back burner for years. The hang-up was the ending. Then one day it popped into my mind. I sat down and wrote the story, and the rest is in the record books. One funny side effect of having thought on it for so long is that for a few years afterwards, I would sometimes think “I need to write that dirigible story” before finally remembering I did!
Second, one needs to be a fast writer. I am, a result of being a journalist for so long. I can write a thousand words of publishable prose an hour. My story, “This Place is a Hole” is 1,395 words long.
Thirdly, inspiration helps. As I just mentioned, my story ideas simmer on the back burner for a while. That’s been the case with this tale of a young lady completely disaffected by the prospect of having to move with her family to a planet she doesn’t like. With President Trump shooting off his mouth about some countries being “shitholes”, it seemed the right tone of disgust for my protagonist.
Fourth, I had an editor waiting for my story. I missed the original deadline because of all the work I had to put in to seal the deal for the purchase of my newspaper. I told the editor Friday I was going to sit down and get her the story this weekend.
Fifth, it was a quiet Saturday morning at home and I was able to write without any interruptions.
Sixth, it was a simple story idea that could be executed at a short length of just under 1,400 words.
Seventh, my editor was online when I sent her the story. I told her if she read it immediately and liked it, we could set some kind of record.
Eighth, she did read it immediately and liked it.
So there it is. I have no idea how this record could ever be topped. I guess the moral of the tale is it helps to get a firm grasp of the English language in your bones – which I’ve done by writing for a living for 40 year (though not fiction), and it’s good to know your markets and have a few sympathetic editors.

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