It’s interesting how these things happen. As you’ll know, if you’ve been following this blog, I finished the first draft of Unanimity at the end of January, and I decided to take a break from it at least through this month (February) before going back to begin the rewriting/editing. During the break, my intention was to write, and possibly to rewrite and edit, one or two short stories, the choice of the first of which I had made ahead of time. This much has gone precisely according to plan: the first draft of that first story is completed.
Then, I had to decide what story to write next. As I’ve detailed elsewhere, the one I originally had in mind was of too similar a character to the one I’d just finished. So, I went to my list of (electronically) jotted-down story ideas and found one that was different enough, and interesting enough, to work on, and I started writing.
Well…this story idea, and the protagonist who came along with it, has turned out to be surprisingly deep and engaging, though I have no idea if anyone else will share my assessment. The character’s back-story and his life experiences resonate strongly with me, so I’m not only having quite a nice time writing about him, but the story has a lot more meat than I would have expected. It may well turn out to be more a novella than a short story.
Yes, I know, many of my “short stories” stray well over the border and into the No Man’s Land between short story and novella. This makes me particularly grateful for e-book publishing, since it’s hard to imagine any old-school magazines publishing such stories out of length considerations, though I suppose serialization might have been possible. This new story, though, with a very tentative title of Safety Valve, is going to end up being even more involved than is usual for me. It doesn’t merit a full-length novel, but it’s not going to be finished in twenty or so pages, either. In fact, it’s already reached twenty pages, and there’s quite a lot more to tell.
Of course, by nature I tend to take more of a “Cheesecake Factory” approach to writing than a “Seasons 52” approach. This isn’t good if one is trying to watch one’s weight, as I know only too well, but when it comes to stories…well, you can’t gain weight from reading a story (nor from writing one, thank goodness). In fact, given that the brain consumes a tremendous portion of the body’s energy budget—about twenty percent—you may burn extra calories by reading a longer story, as long as you don’t snack while doing so.
I’m pleased, bordering on delighted, to have found this story so engaging, especially since I came up with the raw idea off-the-cuff, some time ago, and just added it to the “Quick Memo” file on my smartphone. That practice has turned out to be quite a useful one. Incidentally, I had behaved similarly with the germ for the other story I just finished. The “Quick Memo” habit works beautifully, at least for me, and I don’t mind throwing it out there as possibly useful for others. We might as well take advantage of the little technological marvels that we carry with us. We can thus avoid the classic nightmare: a good idea occurs to us while we’re on the job, or in bed, or in some other situation in which we can’t immediately turn to it in earnest, and by the time we find an appropriate location or time, the idea is lost…“and enterprises of great pitch and moment, with this regard their currents turn awry and lose the name of action.”
Who would have thought that the words of Shakespeare would apply so well to taking notes on one’s smartphone? Well, anyone who’s read much Shakespeare might think such a thing. His work is incredibly powerful and broadly pertinent, worthy of deepest admiration and even excusable envy. “If I could grow apples like that, I would call myself a gardener.”*
Well, that’s enough self-indulgence for another Thursday. I hope the weather’s reasonably good wherever you may be, and that your week has been tolerable, and perhaps even wonderful.
*This is not a quote from Shakespeare, by the way. Do you know its source? Valuable brownie points will be awarded to anyone who does and who states it in the comments below!