Time Killing Time

A writer's greatest ally is also his/her worst enemy: time.

About six weeks ago, I "finished" drafts of 3 different short stories.  I was on that high that only comes with such a moment.  I was eager to give these stories to my in-house editor, Nicole.  I was positive that she'd love them and praise me as the greatest writer in the history of the world, or at least one who's good enough to keep giving away his time to this insane endeavor.

But Nicole is busy.  She works long hours.  And I had more essential things I needed her to read, like the query letter and synopsis for "Master of the House."  Sometimes the "business" end of writing is the priority.

And thank god.

Over the last few days, I've gone back and read those 3 stories and they are not in a good way.  They're not bad -- far from it.  But they are definitely not ready for human consumption.  The problems were glaring, as were the solutions.  I am thrilled that I never gave them to Nicole because I want her to see the best possible versions.  By next week (hopefully), she will.

Had you told me any of that six weeks ago, I would have gotten defensive.  It's a cliche, but the "hurry up and wait" aspect of writing is infuriating.  We put so much time and effort into our creations that we want some kind of pay off.  I want to be able to sit down at my computer and think to myself "a month from now this story will be done," but that's not possible.

Like it or not, we are slaves to the story, and it will do with us what it wants.  It drives me absolutely insane.

But the other side of that coin is the fact that, when given space and time, our stories take on new forms.

The frustrating part for me is that I want to send my stories out into the world.  I've made the mistake of sending them out before they were ready and it's disheartening.  I sent out my YA book before it was ready and I really regret doing that, particularly given how much better the new version is.

Waiting takes on an entirely different set of problems with regards to short stories.  I've talked about it before, but short stories lend themselves to infinite revision.  It's entirely possible for me to keep reworking the same short story for months, but it's not unlike trying to revive someone who's died: if it doesn't happen within a certain amount of time, it's probably not going to happen at all.

Funny enough, this is the kind of thing that used to drive me nuts when I was in a band.  I felt like revisiting songs was pointless when we could just write new ones.  But writing songs was always much easier for me than writing stories, mostly because the songs I wrote were always pretty simple.  My stories are, by default, much more complicated, so they usually require more time, and in turn become that much more personal.

Anyway, I've got 3 short stories in the editing phase now and I feel pretty good about all of them being "done" in the next few weeks.  We'll see how I feel about them a few months from now.