I’ve been struggling all week with the second story in my Patreon project series. The first draft of the story didn’t make much sense so I had to rewrite two of the middle scenes. I outlined a solution, I even wrote out the scenes, but I was very unhappy with it and I didn’t know why. Yesterday morning, I realized what the problem is. The story now makes sense, but it’s yet another story where a queer character (in this case, a young lesbian) gets screwed over by life.
But… but… I wanted this story to have a happy ending.
People who know me know that I tend to gravitate toward horror and gritty realism. I love film noir. I hate the American cliche of happy endings to everything. I don’t think that life is full of happy endings and I don’t want my fiction to be full of happy endings either.
This tends to butt heads with the facts that I write fiction with LGBTQ+ characters and that living as a queer person in this country is hard enough without all of your fiction being a huge bummer. I don’t want my characters to always have happy endings, because that isn’t realistic. But I don’t want my characters to always have tragic endings, because I primarily write LGBTQ+ characters and there is enough tragedy in queer life already. So I struggle, and sometimes I wish I was a straight person writing generic straight fiction who didn’t have to think about all these things.
In good news, in the draft I wrote this morning, I think I’ve finally managed to strike the tone I wanted.
Holiday weekends and holiday weeks are always hard. In good news, I got to spend a lot of time with my family! In bad news, I didn’t get very much writing done.
The first story in the short story series is Done with a capital “D,” though I’ll probably give it one final read before I launch the project. The second story is a bit more problematic. I’ve discovered that it needs quite a bit of work as I’m reading it through, which is kind of discouraging, but I plan on plugging away at that this coming week.
This week, I did both macro and micro revisions to what I think will be the first story in the Tattoo Magic Patreon Project. It’s off to my beta reader (Jared, of course) for first impressions and comments. Once I get three or four of these finished I’ll be ready to launch the project.
Finishing this first story is a huge accomplishment. This story gave me no end of trouble. I eventually had to go back and research some really basic things, like the purpose of short stories, to figure out where it was going wrong. I owe a special thanks to my friend Julius for kicking me into gear for finally fixing the myriad of problems in the story. Right now, I’m quite happy with it.
Sometimes I feel like I’m doing this writing thing backwards. Right now, I’m reading through the short stories I’ve drafted and I’m creating outlines for them.
But don’t you outline first, you ask? For a novel, yes. It just has too many moving parts and if I purely try to discovery write, I will get lost in the weeds and bogged down. But with short stories, I usually just have the idea that I want to do, the character that I want to explore, and run with it. That’s why short stories are fun for me.
Maybe the reason I love short stories is that I’m an outliner by necessity for novels, but in my heart I’m a discovery writer. I tried outlining with short stories, but I discover so much about my characters as I’m writing them, which invariably changes the outline because their decisions have to make sense for them. And there’s a lot less room to get lost in a short story. A couple characters, a single or at most two desires… I can keep all the moving parts in mind at once.
But this means my first draft of short stories tend to meander. And so revision is mostly tightening them up, centering them on the desire and what they need to do to get there and what is or is not getting met. This is particularly true of the story I’m revising right now for my Patreon project. It’s a lovely atmospheric bit of writing… but it doesn’t do what short stories need to do. As I’m reading it and outlining it, I realize I’m going to have to entirely gut and redo the middle.
Such is the writer life.