I’ve had this nebulous epic story in my head for a long time, and when I saw the Riptide submission call for Frontiers, said nebula birthed a plot bunny. Now, I knew the whole story was too big for me to finish by the deadline, rather I needed something that would fit the minimum word count of 20.000, and, following that line of wishful thinking, my brain came up with the shiny nugget of taking an early part of the story, giving it its own little plot arc, pulling up some now quick sex from the much slower development of the original — et voila, I’d have the perfect entry. At a later date, my brain figured, I could still write all the other parts and facets of the story and declare this one part of a series. You’re not convinced? I don’t blame you.
Still, I frittered away a week, happily committing to keyboard the film that was running in my head, until the reel jerked to a halt. I gave myself some time-out, did some gardening over the long weekend and came back to my desk yesterday, fully expecting the film to have been sorted out and continue. Nothing happened. The muse had curled up into a sobbing, pathetic little ball in a corner.
So, trying to get her back into the mood, I reread what I’d written. The muse threw up. It was nothing like the original nebula. It sounded trite and hurried. Really, it sounded like exactly what it was — a potentially good idea bent to fit a format it had no inclination of accommodating.
“20.000 words?”the muse retched. “Why don’t you just drive a stake through my heart and be done with it?” (Yes, I think I mentioned at some point that she’s quite the drama queen.)
Now, something you have to understand about me is, I find it awfully hard to resist a good submission call. It’s magnetic and mesmerizing. I wasn’t ready to let this one go just yet. Insert another bout of gardening (What can I say, I think best when my hands are busy with mindless stuff). All morning I tried to compile a list of pros and cons.
I came up with a lot of cons, the main ones being that a part of an epic serial has a completely different dynamic than a short stand-alone. That, for the story to work as a short stand-alone I was compromising style, structure and character development. And that those compromises would influence and change the rest of the shiny nebula to the point where I neither recognized nor liked it anymore. It just wouldn’t be the story I wanted to write.
On the pro side I had this: Submission call. Shiny!
Yup, this is the point where the muse hung her head, washed her hands of me and started packing. I told her it wasn’t that bad (I don’t lie well.); she pointed a silently accusing finger at the barbie doll torso I’d so proudly produced last week when I was still thinking it could become a classical alabaster statue. She demanded utter destruction of the abomination.
In the end, we struck a compromise. I agreed to relegate the text fragment to a light-less pit until such time as I was ready and able to write the whole nebula in whatever length it called for. I would further return penitently to Bengt & Alex’s story which I should never have strayed from in the first place — and in return, she would stay.
She hasn’t actually mentioned the words ‘work’ or ‘inspire’ yet. For the time being she’s just still here, nursing an (adorable) pout and letting me graciously worship at her feet. So, for the time being my hands are still wielding a spade instead of a keyboard. I’m feeding her promises and sun-warm strawberries and hope for the best.