May 29, 2012

Storymorphosis


I booted another story out the door today, into the cold world of submissions. *sniff* They grow up so . . . slowly, actually.

Sure, some stories arrive like Athena, fully formed and holding a sword (at least in my imagination). These little blessings toddle precociously out of the nest, and sometimes even find new homes. But some live long spinster lives, waiting for a market matchup that seems never to come. Some live in their parents' basements well past middle age.

This latest one is one of the latter. It was born in my MFA program, under literary conditions. But it never quite fit in. It had a speculative element (or did it?) that turned out to be nothing, a big giant squid on the mantelpiece. So after a few sorties to literary markets I shelved "Day 40" (as it was then called).

Post-Clarion West, I dug the poor thing out and tried to reinvent it as a genre story. I gave it a dark new ending. I made the SF element real, but it still didn't start until halfway through the story, and my first readers said it felt like a literary story with an SF element grafted onto it. Which, of course, it was. Back on the shelf it went (now with the title "Hearts, Minds, and Plastic Bristles").

Then just this month, in a desperate attempt to avoid editing my novel, I tortured this story one more time. I cut it to the bone and gave it yet another new ending, one that feels right. In critique group, of course, all the struggle was laid bare--the uneasy history of this transmogrified work is still there, and it still rankles a bit. But not so much that it isn't time to let it fly again. Time will tell if this Frankenstein-esque revision will be a victory, or if villagers will hunt it down with pitchforks and flaming torches.

Oh, and my readers all hated the story's title. I'm not going to say what it's called now; I'm just keeping fingers crossed that it doesn't come home this time. Not chased by an angry mob, and not to do its laundry.

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