honest lies

The rejections are piling up. I see it as a good sign in a twisted way. It means I’m sending out work regularly, which I am. Generally, the feedback is good. I’m hitting most of the desired requirements. The sting is when you get a comment that indicates your story is not original enough. Ouch.

My poor ego, lying face-down in the dust with footprints on its back.

All the stories I’ve written and completed this year are short. I’m comfortable in that format, and would like to continue writing sub-2K stories if at all possible.

There is a shift going on in my writing, which is hard to elucidate. For some odd reason these concise stories are facilitating the change. Maybe it’s because the length forces me to be explicit and careful in my word choice and sentence structure. Perhaps I need to write short for now, so I can write long later. It’s a theory. At the moment I’m trying to focus on writing stories I need to write.

For instance, the recent short I wrote emerged because of the first line, which popped into my head. I sat in front of the keyboard and wrote the rest of it. I think the core of the story is me trying to vocalise a specific emotion, but via the life of a fictional character. It’s a story that I would hesitate to show certain people. I suspect they would consider it autobiographical, which it’s not.

Well, that’s not exactly true either, is it? The best writing, the stuff that resonates, has at its core a basic truth about our lives, even if it’s set on Mars, or Avalon.

At Clarion West last year Maureen McHugh noted that we stand naked in our fiction. She suggested that if the work doesn’t make the author uncomfortable, or question showing it to other people, then the writer should dig deeper. I got to that place with my last story.

I’m trying to disable my internal censor as I write. I’m trying to allow the words out unhindered. That does not mean I don’t rewrite; I’m all about rewriting. It’s allowing myself to hit the essential emotion without flinching or pulling back to a discrete, safe distance. It’s about being honest in my lies.

The On Writing Horror handbook I mentioned recently contains an acceptance speech by Stephen King when he received the National Book Award in 2003 for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. He describes his passion and struggle with writing, and he says something that reflects my own recent musings:

“We understand that fiction is a lie to begin with. To ignore the truth inside the lie is to sin against the craft, in general, and one’s own work in particular”. He adds, later: “How stringently the writer holds to the truth inside the lie is one of the ways that he can judge how seriously he takes his craft.”

I want to embed truth in my fictions.