Monday, April 16, 2012

Finish It, Before It Spreads

It's a weird feeling for me, finishing something I've been working on a while. I have no discipline in any aspect of my life (especially when CHOCOLATE is involved, am I right?? We have fun.) and writing is no different. I can't seem to function without juggling a few projects at one time, which slows down that beautiful event of actually. finishing. something.

So, a few months ago I randomly got an idea for a very strange horror story, one that seemed firmly half and halfsies in both gore and psychological territory. I enjoy both, a LOT, so that was exciting for me. I have a big problem with being too chatty and living inside a characters head without doing much in the way of action- I know, you wish I had a huge backlist you could just run out and buy right now, right? That said, I felt like this one had enough yucky plot stuff to justify (m)any inner monologues I might have snuck in there.

So... what to do with it? I've gotten conflicting opinions re: sitting on it for a collection or sending it out like it was a hot Saturday night. I mean, I guess it's good? I've read way worse, you know. No, really. It may have been on a bathroom wall but dammit, the plot thread was frayed. Short stories are kinda hard to deal with if you're not an Amy Hempel or a Clive Barker (hey, he's due for another collection if you ask me...) or a Gaiman. The most recent guy that I think blew mine and many others socks off starting with short stories was Joe Hill, and that's encouraging. It's a cool form, it's just not really stylish anymore. By "anymore" I mean since the 1980's, but whatever. It's what my brain wants to do right now. That and a screenplay, which is FANTASTIC for scattered brains like mine.

So like everything I'll just keep it, tenderly editing it here and there and then stare at it with increasing hostility and paranoia. I hope it somehow feeds on that.

So what do you do once you finally finish raising your word baby? Do you have an agent that just tells you the perfect thing, you fancy bastard? Are you laughing at my lack of direction right now because you have all the answers? Let me know in the comments, I love you guys!


  1. Wait, you're supposed to FINISH stories? Holy crap, I've been doing this all wrong...

    I keeeed. Generally, the best advice I've heard is to put a story away right after you've finished it, write something else, then come back to the first story in a few weeks or months. Getting some distance can help you be critical, and find flaws that you might be too close to it to see right away. So then you fix them.

    Then, I'm told, you send the story out for publication. That's the part I haven't quite gotten to yet.

    1. Publication is overrated- I mainly work in the medium of tattoo artistry.

      Thanks for the input, coming back to it later is definitely sound advice.

  2. I think the first thing to do is sit on it for a little bit and then take a look at it with a fresh perspective later on.

    Once you decide to submit it, provide you go that route, nothing saying you have to, finding an actual market can be a pain in the ass. There's a lot of stuff on the web, not much in print and very little actually pays.

    Check out Duotrope for short story market listings. You can search by genre, pay, length, etc. They've got good listings in there.

    I don't know much of what's out there for horror short stories. Most of my experience is with crime, and there are tons of those on the web and a few in print, like NEEDLE, a quarterly noir magazine that I help edit.

    One place that springs to mind for horror is Spinetingler Magazine.

    They print some good genre fiction and, last I'd heard, they were paying. Not much, admittedly, but those days are pretty much over, anyway. And they're great to work with. If they think a story has problems they're pretty good about telling you what it is. Worth its weight in fucking gold, that.

    A lot of their focus is crime, but they do horror too. Check out their submission guidelines.

    Good luck!

    1. Thanks so much for the info! I do troll Duotrope, but haven't really used it beyond eyeballing yet.

  3. One thing these two gentlemen did not mention: After "sitting on it" for a while, then you show it to three people you trust not to bullshit you. Or at least one person you know will give you honest notes. That can be your agent, depending on what kind of an agent you have. Or your wife, depending on what kind of wife you have. Feedback, positive or negative, is essential to being good, having a confident voice and refining your work. You can't do this shit in a vacuum. Take it from the guy who was turned down by every major publisher in NYC on his first novel, but in getting a sore ass on submissions, actually received the best writing tip EVER from one of the editors who rejected him. That comment was, basically "it's not visceral enough."

    Now, everything I write is visceral as fucking hell. That'll show 'em.

    When I was doing a lot of shorts, I never submitted them to anyone (fuck that; the money's bad and it devalues the shit for later publication), but I self-published a collection through POD, which I then pushed on all my writer friends to get blurbs for my work. Those blurbs were what sold me to editors later when I went to writing novels. (They're actually using some of them on the jacket of my new book!) Horror is a tough racket. Thrillers are where the money is. So I kinda do horror-edged thrillers. You know, really internal, dark worldview, totally ultraviolet action set pieces. That'll show 'em.

    Also . . . I don't think short stories are as dead as all that. In fact, I think it can be the freest, most expressive palette to write in. It doesn't have to be a certain number of words. It can be anything and everything. You just gotta find new and original ways to write them. That's kinda what I did with THE RIOT ACT. That'll show 'em.


  4. *Takes up chant of "sub it! sub it!"*


    (I know this is late, but I finally fixed my issue with leaving comments.)