Wednesday, January 03, 2007

New Day Job Will Let Me Write


You read that headline right. I got myself a job. A full time one at an insurance agency, to be exact, that starts Monday. They call the position an Agency Representative. I'll pretty much do a lot of what I did while working in Massachusetts, with a lot more potential for growth. Beyond that, I'm happy to make money to pay bills, so I can start writing regularly again. Yay!

After this week, though, I'll have to wait a little bit until using my nights for writing again. I can transfer the insurance license I had in Massachusetts. Since I'll start working in another line of insurance, however, I'll need to do some heavy studying for that test. Fun. . .yeah.


Since I more than likely have the rest of the week free, I'll spend most of it doing writerly stuff and a bit of reading. I pretty much have the same list of projects as before, with an addition or two:

+ Bachelors project, which involves a novel and 6 papers
  - Writing rough draft for 3rd chapter in novel
  - Doing research for rough draft of paper 6

+ A short story originally written in high school
  - Finished a major revision last night
  - Need to type up revision
  - Review again for revision
  - Come up with good title
  - Market to SF magazines
  - Maybe get a person or two to read and react

+ Need to do some preliminary research into SF personages in Chicago. I will either write articles or act as editor for a Web publication section

Lately I've invested a fair amount of time and emotional energy into the short story. More to the point, the emotional energy has focused on marketing the story. It has a bit of angst to it and after Columbine, I wonder about its appropriateness. Then again, back in high school, I wrote and published in my high school literary magazines a story or two that wouldn't work post-Columbine. One, in particular, focused on a teenage serial killer who only ended up with the serial part because people would get too close to finding out about the original murder.

I tried to get another, longer, angsty story published in a more serious magazine. This story involved kids coming together all around the United States, blowing up their schools, breaking into military installations then destroying the US with simultaneous nuclear explosions. Suffice to say, it has yet to get published, even though I worked real hard revising and revising that thing. . .and I don't intend on trying to publish it again.

That effort didn't turn out completely fruitless, though. Even though I didn't receive a writing credit or any money for the effort, I proved extremely lucky to reach an editor that provided tons of great criticism on the piece. Not only for the piece itself, either, but also tips on how to format a manuscript for editors. The editor didn't even talk down to me or necessarily say anything derisive about my thoughts or ideas, just that the story didn't feel believable. A nice lady who watched over me as I volunteered for a data entry job at a nonprofit said the same thing about all fiction.

Either which way, I haven't tried to seriously publish anything since I got that response from that editor. I did open mics with poetry, submitted some poetry to a contest or two and published a silly poem in a college literary magazine. Reworking this story and submitting it really just highlights this little history of mine and brings up a small amount of anxiety. Will this story have enough believability to it? Does it have too much angst in it, especially post-Columbine? Does it compel the reader enough? Do I try too hard to say something rather than entertain the reader?

I keep telling myself that I can't think about all that stuff too much. It will just hold me back. I need to just work on the story as best as I can until I feel like I can't make it any better. The believability and the abilities to compel and entertain touch me as valid questions. Nonetheless, I'll have to deal with those as I get closer to the point where I feel that I've done the best I could on it. And after that, I'll just have to say, "Screw you, doubts. I'll find a place for the story and get myself some writing credits."

After all, I'll probably need those writing credits when it comes to marketing the novel.


Dawn said...

All you can do is write. And then revise, revise, revise. If you want someone to look at your story I'd love to read it.

What are the specifics on the format that the editor gave you?

The_Lex said...

Haven't marketed the story yet. I had the impression that magazines accepted unsolicited manuscripts for short stories. Apparently, I could be wrong.

And that kind of stinks. I have yet to reach the point where I can query a magazine before I write the story. I have the basic idea, but the details that make the story good have become something of a bitch.

Thanks to the fiancee, though, for workshopping it for me. Maybe I'll give you a chance to workshop it after I have been satisfied enough that her criticisms have fallen off the mark or have become personal.

ChrisTheOzzman said...

Lex, I have to tell you something about the genre of angst-ridden younsters blowing up any institution, let alone the whole country with nukes.

Back in middle school, I wrote a game for a primitive (by today's standards) engine called ZZT. In this adventure, you kill teachers and students you don't like, blow up the school, and even waste the bus driver on your way out. The school was re-created with painstaking accuracy and all the characters were based off real people. All this was pre-Columbine so no one really took any of that stuff seriously.

Needless to say, I never published that game on my website, nor do I intend to. The game was supposed to be funny, not serious, although by today's standards there is no way you'd pass that kind of stuff off as entertainment. In a way, it's kind of a shame that the theme has become so political. Kind of like how people might perceive "Fight Club" before 9-11 versus after 9-11.

Since I haven't read the story, I can't really comment on the logistics of breaking into military facilities and stealing nukes, except that on the surface it seems utterly absurd. Does the story take itself seriously, or not? Being a veteran game designer, I understand that there's a world of difference between Gordon Freeman fighting off entire militias singlehandedly in fiction versus in reality. I'm interested to know how much "realism" is present in the story.

The idea of students squaring off against the military brings to mind some recent events that happened in Thailand. Hundreds of students died in battles with the Thai army over Islam; most westerners would probably think they died for a pointless cause. Given that, I kind of wonder if it's acceptable to apply different standards to the "militant student mindset." Is there one that's justified and one that isn't? The more I think about it, the more I think there should be one standard only.

The_Lex said...

Unfortunately, the story attempted at realism but failed miserably. I would have to do a lot more research to figure out how a small group of teenagers could steal parts to make nuclear bombs and what parts they would have to steal.

You do bring up a good point about the tone of a story can alter its sellability. An absurd angle on that story could possibly have found an interesting audience. I gues for that story and the one I'm working on now, I thought of them simply as expressions and, if anything to an audience, a warning of the things that teenagers had the imagination to do, if not the temerity to execute the tasks. Imagine my surprise when I heard about much dumber ideas executed. . .why go on a shooting spree when you could burn down the school? =/

Regarding setting standards, as comforting as it may be to set a single one, different situations leads to different standards. Without knowing more about the Thailand event, I can't say much more about it.