Vision: A Resource for Writers
Lazette Gifford, Editor
Vision@sff.net

Diary of a Non Short Story Writer

By Valerie Comer
2004, Valerie Comer


March 1: Zette has posted the monthly challenge.  As always, I pop over to the forum and have a peek.  What is it this time?  Drat.  Another short story.  I don't do short stories.  Wait.  A short story for a children's market?  I've done a few of those, way back.  W-a-y back.  Too far back.  I should forget it.

March 1, later: March Madness has also been posted.  How many words am I crazy enough to try to write in one week?  Twice I've managed close to 7K in a day and lived.  Surely I can manage 21K in a week!  But I have no novel to write.  I'm re-writing, and that doesn't produce new words.  There's always a back-to-school class to write, and maybe a Vision article, and the new scenes to go in my rewrite.  It might be enough.  And I can always do that short story challenge.

March 2: Okay, signed up for both.  What, am I crazy or something?  It's not like I don't have plenty to do already.  I have no idea what to base my story on.  And it's not like the measly words for a kids' short story are going to help with the word count for March Madness or anything.  They'll probably be slow words.  Can I delete my thread?  Not without someone noticing.  I should have thought about it longer.

March 5: I rewrote a scene in Heaven can Wait today in which Dhana's robo-cat is an object lesson for why God made people with a free will, rather than as robots.  I wonder if I could take this robo-cat and plug it into a short story?  Maybe there is hope yet.

March 6: It's not a robo-cat; it's a robo-pup!  And a real dog, and two boys who have gone exploring without permission...

March 10: I went to the library on my lunch hour to have a look at the current Writer's Market resource guide.  There are lots of places to send kids' stories in Christian markets.  But 500-700 words?  This robo-pup story will be for older kids, so can I please make it longer?  Hmm, I find four markets that will accept up to approximately 1500 words.  That will have to be the top.  Can it be done?

March 11: Okay, what have we got so far?   What are the boys like?  Why are they here?  Why haven't their parents clued in to what their sons are doing?  Wait a minute.  What are the sons doing? Hmm.

March 12: I'm in chat, and Zette says she is writing a post to ask for Vision articles on writing short stories.  I tell her that I won't be submitting one, since this is my first short in more than ten years.  She comes back with, Why not an article on writing the first short in more than ten years?  Yeah, right.  She's desperate. (Note from editor -- Was not!  Just, you know, helping her get that word count.  Really.)  I can't remember what motivated me to sign up in the first place.  A pip, she suggests?  She's probably right.  Some of us will do nearly anything for a pip... (Another note from editor:  Pips are little graphics for signatures at Forward Motion.  It's amazing what some writers will do to add more to their signature file.  I'm doing a research paper...)

March 16: It's time to get this story rolling!  Can I weave my lesson in without getting wordy?  Do they want a lesson?  Check my notes from Writer's Digest.  Yes, these markets do.  But not preachy.  Well, that's good, because there are no words to spare, after all!  Can I make three scenes out of this?

March 18: Why did I sign up for this again?  The pip.  Right.  And now I've said I'd write the article, too.  The story, Valerie.  What are those boys really up to?

March 19: A plan!  I have a plan and an outline.  Do writers need outlines for short stories?  Well, it's a short outline.

March 23: Isn't it ridiculous to wait until March Madness to write this story?  It will be barely a drop in the bucket compared to the total number of words I have pledged to write.  And I have that new book that's been playing at the back of my brain, which will be much better material for March Madness.  Just get the story over with.  Just write it.

March 24, 9:30 am: March Madness starts tomorrow.  Today is my last chance to write the story before it starts.  I'm going for it.

March 25, 10 am: Hmm.  I write two sentences, and discover that this story wants to be told from a first person POV.  Just try to get in a twelve-year-old boy's head.

March 25, 11:30: Argh.  Word count 1383, and I still have to tie the thing up.  I need a break.  What's for lunch?

March 25, 1:30: 1603 words.  Surely I'll be able to cut a hundred words or two?  And I'm not sure it hangs together right.  No, Valerie, leave it alone.  The piece needs to rest.  Close the file.

March 26: It's a good thing I didn't leave it until March Madness to write, as I just discovered that only words in one project count.  Whew, I'm glad it's already written.

April 1: March Madness is done.  I just read through the short story.  I'm reasonably impressed; it has decent bones.  A bit of cutting and tweaking is in order.  There's no room for Jesse to munch that apple, and Rube's lack of ability in treading water can be tightened up.  He doesn't have to almost drown three times to get the point across.

April 2: Brushed through the story again, and sent it off for crit.  I'm not completely sure about the ending.  1500 hundred words is not very many; you have to get every single one of them right.  And I wish I could think of a catchier title than Choices.

April 6: My critter caught a couple of places that needed first aid, especially where I hadn't made the join seamless when I deleted some of Rube's thrashing in the water. I took another stab at the last paragraph, too.  Heh.  It is also now under 1500 words.  And what do you mean I use too many exclamation points?  Not me!  You must be mistaken!  I don't have bad habits like that!  Er, yes.  I'll have a closer look at that.

April 7: Does a short story need a cover letter?  What does Writer's Digest say?  Nothing about cover letters, just to send complete manuscript.  Okay.  I've had another run through the story, and discovered that I had the word 'right' three times in one paragraph.  What can I use instead?

April 7, later: My first choice magazine does not have their specific guidelines listed on the website.  If I send away for the guidelines, I won't get them in time to complete the challenge.  Then I won't get a pip.  But if I use the wrong format, they won't accept the story for sure.  But what are the odds they'll buy the first story I've ever submitted to them, anyway?  At least the pip is a sure thing, if I just pop the story in the mail.  But selling stories pays better than a pip does.  This magazine pays $200-$450 for a story.  That's real money.  Dilemmas.

April 8: Okay, my second choice magazine does have the guidelines posted, and they pay about $200.  Guess what?  Their list of themes denotes September's theme as making wise choices!  Maybe I stand a chance.  Only, their upper word limit is 1400, and I'm currently at 1483.  How picky are they?  Hmm.  I guess I'm off to cut more words.

April 8, later: 1390!  I'm proud of myself.  I've set up the headers and footers and the rest of the formatting.  Now to print it out.

April 11: It's back from another crit.  It seems I have a bit more work to do.  Now I've cut so many words that the purpose of the story has gotten muddled in places.  I think if I reversed some of the boys' characteristics, it would help to clarify things.  I hope.

April 12: I think it's stronger now.  I'll send it out for one more check.  I've bought my American stamps for the SASE, and I've figured out how to print out a professional looking envelope.  Now I just need the final copy to go in it.

April 13: This is it.  I've had a final poke and prod at the story.  I've held my breath and hit 'print'.  The words did not morph into something new and strange when they hit real paper.  Now I am folding it into thirds.  The envelope is sitting right beside it, ready to go.  Dare I seal it?  Are those words really going to stay put?

April 14: I slid it through the slot at the post office.  Will every story I write be this hard to part with?  The guidelines say they will get back to me in about six weeks.  Can I wait that long?  Do I have a choice?  Oh, but there is instant gratification in this world.  The pip!  I must go on-line and collect it.  It's real.  It's tangible.

April 15: Hey, I had an idea!  I bet this could make a cool short story.  You see, there's this little girl and...

 
(The Pip)

(Final note from editor:  I wonder if Valerie realizes that this month is the Short Story a Day dare....)