I tried to start a post last night, but failed to write more than a couple sentences, and failed to do anything with those. I did happen to be watching a very strange movie at the time, and it was late and I was tired, but I’m not sure those are really any good, as far as excuses go. Anyway, I’ve brought my iBook to the desk in my room with the intention of working on some fiction, so here’s the post which serves temporarily as procrastination. I suppose all I need to do to succeed at something is to set my mind on doing something else, and with any luck my advanced procrastination will get everything done.
Heck, at this rate, I’ll probably get around to cleaning the kitchen soon! (Probably not tonight – I’ve been having a heck of a migraine.)
Came across another “new” website tonight. 1000keyboards.com, a website for authors and readers, sortof Web2.0 (if that really means anything) site built around short fiction. Alas, by “short fiction” they mean stories not less than 800 words and not more than 1000 words. That’s a pretty slim target, and a pretty small goal. Ooh, here’s what Wikipedia has to say with regard to the length of short stories (I know, I could go change it if I wanted to, but it isn’t exactly wrong), emphasis mine:
Determining what exactly separates a short story from longer fictional formats is problematic. A classic definition of a short story is that one should be able to be read it in one sitting, a point most notably made in Edgar Allan Poe’s essay “The Philosophy of Composition” (1846). Other definitions place the maximum word length at 7,500 words. In contemporary usage, the term short story most often refers to a work of fiction no longer than 20,000 words and no shorter than 1,000.
Anyway, the short stories I’ve been writng lately have fallen generally above 7,500 words and under 20,000 words, so I figure I’m just being … verbose. Or something. I had just been writing what felt right at the time. One of them I’d hoped would be a novel, but came out short, only around 10,000 words. Another one I thought would be short, but it seemed to have a life of its own and came out around 10,000 words. The vampire story I’m working on now, which is broken up into small chapter-like sections, appears to be on track for around 10,000 words. And then there’s the one I believe will end up being the titular story of the collection I’m planning on putting them all in. It’s over 12,000 words and I have no idea where it’s going or how long it plans on taking to arrive there. Hrm… looking around at other people’s ideas of what a short story is, most people agree that the 800-1000 word pinhole of this site is shorter than they would prefer. Better than certain other sites with 1024 character limits (Ugh), but still a little on the shy side. I’ve been writing poetry in a little spiral-bound journal, nothing over one side of one page, no planning, and many of those poems probably go over the 1024 character limit.
Actually, looking at what other people think of when they think of writing is … somewhat disturbing for me. I should know better. It almost always is. What other authors have to say about writing… I just don’t think that way, I don’t operate that way, I don’t want to operate that way. In talking about the difference between the novel and the short story, they assume more intention and vision in a novel than I tend to have in my short fiction, but they’re using novels as the example of the looser, more easy-going, less strictly planned and with the least direct intent of the two. Whenever people start talking or writing about “themes” I cringe -often physically- at the concept. I don’t connect with that at all. Not in my stories, not in my novels, not even in my art. I’m not trying to express a theme, I’m not intending to illuminate any particular idea or an emotion most of the time, and there isn’t really a deeper meaning behind my work. About half the time I had an idea of something ((“What would it be like to interact with the rest of the world if one were travelling backwards trhrough time? How would that play out?” or “In a world where Jesus will forgive anyone of their sins and all they have to do is believe in Him, what possible role could a Sin Eater play? Is there a use for such a being?”)), the other half the time I don’t have any ideas at all, but either way I just do the same thing: I sit down (at a computer, or typewriter, or pad of paper, whatever) and I let the story come out however it wants, and I do my best not to interfere with it by planning it out or thinking beyond the phrasing of the current sentence or the selection of a word from a thesaurus (mental or digital), and then read it later to see what happened.
And sometimes it’s long, and sometimes it’s short, and usually people tell me they saw interesting themes in it and they talk about the deeper meanings and the social and political references and I play along. Sometimes I’ll go back and re-read what I’ve written and try to think of what people will make up about it, or to come up -retroactively- with some sort of intention or point. Other times I’ll just integrate what various people have suggested with some random garbage I think will make people feel good and spout it at whoever asks. Mostly I don’t like to talk about my work at all, because … I haven’t much to say of any value. Not about the content. I mean, I could go on and on, but… it seems hollow. Or maybe not. I don’t know, why don’t you listen to me talk about my stuff sometime and tell me what YOU think. How can I be an accurate judge of my own interpretations of my work, especially if my basic interpretation is that there is no correct interpretation?
Alright, my head hurts again, I quit for now.
((Of note, the body of this post is over 1100 words. In case you wanted an idea of how long 1000 words is. I didn’t do it on purpose – in fact, I had about twice as much to say, but my head hurts.))