In a few weeks I’ll be attending the Sycamore Hill writers’ workshop in Little Switzerland, NC. I went once a couple years ago, and workshopped my werewolf story, “Wild Acre” (appearing later this summer in Gary McMahon’s anthology Visions Fading Fast, he added in his best huckster’s voice). The story had been struggling to find its title until Karen Joy Fowler gave it to me there. It’s a friendly but intense environment, kind of like Clarion with brass knuckles. I’m looking forward to going back.
I’m racing to finish the new story on time. This is also the last story I have to finish before sending the manuscript of the collection to an interested publisher, so there is extra incentive to get it done. It’s going to be a watershed moment.
Also this summer I have taken up Theodora Goss’s YA challenge. Now, I’ll be honest here: I usually steer very, very far from this kind of thing. A friend of mine calls it a stunt, and I have to acknowledge that it has that veneer to it. I feel the same way about NaNoWriMo. I always thought that if you’re a writer you just write the damn thing and it takes as long as it takes.
But I took this up for a couple of reasons. One, this isn’t being done as a stunt. Not by Dora, and not by Livia Llewellyn or Alexandra Duncan (who are also taking part; Dora has the full list over at her site (I can’t speak for the others, since I don’t know them, but I will assume their intentions are noble (looking over the list again, I notice with some amusement that I am the only man represented there; do I care about this branch of literature more than most men because I’m a single parent? Hmmmm … (But I digress)))). I don’t think anybody gives a damn what the world at large things about the endeavor. Two — and for me this is the crux of it — I have always been an undisciplined writer, and I’m working to change that. While I believe an undisciplined writer can produce great fiction, it’s almost a given that there will not be much of it. Furthermore, it’s all but impossible to develop professional momentum without a rigorous work ethic.
I am very comfortable with the idea of letting the work stand on its own. At the end of a writer’s life, and afterwards, readers don’t talk about how quickly that writer produced, or whether or not he adhered to a daily word count. They could give a shit. What they care about it what’s on the page. The result is what matters. I believe that fundamentally.
That being said, I don’t like the fact that I don’t have books out yet. My ego wants that gratification. I want to do readings and sign books, because ultimately I am a vain man. All writers are narcissists on some level. And this will be a great stride toward that end.
Finally, and most importantly: I have this great idea. It’s been sitting in my head for a while. It’s perfect for a young adult audience, I think. It’s something I haven’t read before, and I’m excited by it. So what the hell. The pieces are in place. Why not take advantage?
So here I go.