Yesterday's writing day was smooth and uneventrul. A cold walk, a weclomed Mexican Mocha, a good writing session. Despite what The Writer had told me, The Editor wanted to take an early look at the just completed short story. He took us back to the beginning and we read through, editing and revising. The first three quarters addressed minor fixes, tightening things up. The final quarter needed larger work to improve flow, pacing and tension.
I finished the effort and left to walk off my writer's butt and do Saturday every other week errands. Reflecting on the story, though, I thought it an interesting story, certainly engrossing to me, its writer, in the way that children engross their parents. Was it good enough to publish somewhere?
"Of course," The Writer replied. His tone purveyed the ridicule associated with making statements that are well known, like, "I think the Earth is round." More objectively, the Editor said, "Well, yes, but its chances probably aren't great. It's a good story but not a deeply compelling story, although it's eye-opening and interesting in some ways. In that regard, yes, it can be published, but it depends on the market's needs."
The Writer became silent. "What about you?" I asked The Reader. "What do you think about it?"
"I agree with all of you."
The Reader was trying not to hurt anyone's feelings. "What's that mean?"
"It's a good story. Very imaginative and interesting."
Oh, it's painful to hear such polite support. "So if you were a reader, recommending it for publication, would you recommend it?"
"Probably not because it's too long to get to where it's going."
The Writer looked ill. But why was he surprised? He'd indulged his words, his scenes. He loved re-imagining his town and visualizing the changes Earth and the world might endure through politics, war, and insanity, creating new myths, legends and history, and he'd had enormous fun, opening up the imagination toolbox and playing. That was all clearly seen in the story but much introduced in the story wasn't needed to advance the story. Some could probably be cut to create a better story.
"I hear what you're saying," The Writer said in polite, objective tones, "but it's not going to happen."
Of course it's not. It's too soon for him. He's just hearing this for the first time. He'll need to deal with the emotional part of letting go of the story, finish riding the pride and satisfaction , the joy of finishing, and the beauty of his imagination at work. That's not what story is always about. He saw ideas and sought to tie up loose ends. He tied them up but not everyone needs to know how he tied it all together.
"In fact," the Editor said, "you can probably begin the story midway through, tweak it a bit, and increase the story's impact because it's a shorter story. The more time someone uses to read a story, the greater their investment. More words, then provide a longer story, and each word becomes progressively more expensive."
"But it's worth it," The Writer muttered.
"Consider your first reader is an editor, thinking about whether to buy and publish this story," The Editor replied. "Yes, they'll probably read through it because it's good enough, compelling enough, interesting enough, to cause that. But after they finish reading it, will they be willing to spend the money and ink to publish it?"
That's true, The Writer admitted. We heard it although he didn't speak. He was thinking, all those beautiful words and ideas, lopped off in the name of business. "But you don't know," he whispered, a feeble sound.
No, you don't, I thought. It's Schrodinger's Story, existing as a potential to be published or to not be published until it's submitted and rejected or accepted, something that is potentially perpetual. It can be submitted for publication as long as there are markets for submission. At 10,000 words, some places even would look at that as a potential novella, novellette, or if I like it so much, I can go the e route with that length.
The Writer, Editor, and Reader all agreed with me. One of them needs to make a decision.
"I recommend you don't think about it," Reader said. "Go out and look at websites. Find someplace to submit it. I know I'm just The Reader, but you guys go through this all the time, agonizing if it's good enough. You don't limit this to just writing, either, Michael. You do this with your work and home projects as well. Don't you remember? You blogged about this, like ten days ago. Get over yourself. Get out of your own way. You're probably the worst judge of your own work. No matter how objective you think you can be, you often over-analyze and become over-critical."
"But, my inner voice," I reply. "I trust my inner voice."
The Reader laughed. "Your inner voice. You have so many inner voices, it's like we're at a ball game. But look at your history. You have low self-esteem."
"Hey, leave me out of this," my Self Esteem said from way down inside.
"You're always seeking perfection," The Reader continued. "Because you worry about not being good enough. Perfection is a good goal but seeking perfection ends up stymying you. You polish, polish, polish, polish.
"It's just like planning. You've said that yourself, time and again, a good plan is better than a perfect plan. Don't kill yourself trying to define a perfect plan or a perfect solution to the detriment of beginning with a good plan or a good solution. That's what you always tell others. Listen to your own advice.
"Frankly, I'm sorry I said anything now. Just get out of the way and send the story off. Then get back to the novel."
The Reader had a pretty good point.
I'll need to think about it.
Causes Michael Seidel Supports
Kiva, Women's International League for Peace and Freedom, Propublica.org, Doctors Without Borders, GreaterGood.com