Several years ago, I (mostly) stopped sending my stories out.
I had a few reasons. One of the reasons, the totally movie-ready one that’s now basically over and done, you’ll be able to read about in an upcoming anthology! But another big reason was about not enjoying the actual work anymore, and that scared the hell out of me.
The repair was to turn from flash fiction to longer fiction. No big deal, I thought. I’ve gone back and forth between forms for as long as I can remember.
So! I wrote a novel about friendship among elves. But I could never get the middle section, the quest part, to work. Now, I know why it didn’t work. But I didn’t know for a long time. Anyway, I trunked it. Maybe I’ll get hit by lightning and suddenly know how to fix it, maybe not. Whatever.
Then! I got about halfway through another novel about a city on the verge of disappearing. I realized I was writing the novel in order to live in it — basically, it was my own private Narnia. Which was fine for a while! But eventually I realized that noodling around in there was keeping me from moving forward in general. Not even as a writer, but as a person. I didn’t want to disappear with the city. So I spent a weekend doing a ritualistic teardown of it — an exorcism. I had candles, even! I said goodbye and I sent it off into the mists without me. It was the right thing to do, it felt wonderful, and I mourn nothing.
Now! I’m working on a novel that’s about a house full of sisters and their years-long family project. I’m about a dozen-scenes-from-different-parts-of-the-book away from a first draft. The middle section is fine. Nothing’s on the verge of disappearing. I know where everyone has to be at the end.
I care about finding this novel a good home eventually, but these last few years of immersion have pushed that down my list of priorities. Right now, I’m trying very hard not to think about how every step this novel takes forward is closer to where I will have to say goodbye, because that will slow this novel down faster than everything else in my life could, combined.
I’m curious — but not yet that curious — to see what the next project phase brings.
All of that said: There are times when I think about how, from another point of view, novels are much bigger bets and much higher stakes than shorter work. It freaks me out. Enough has happened over these same last few years that the concept of time can still make me anxious.
But fortunately, I grew up in the creative writing pedagogy of If Something Scares You, Run At It.