Today I am roaming a strange corner of the Feelscape, having risen to the news that my application to join the Horror Writers Association was accepted. I’ve got a few degrees, which is nice, but I’m also a certified mixologist, a certified hypnotist, and an authorized horror. Expect more from your neighborhood weirdo.
Because the better part of the speculative fiction writing life consists of staring at a monitor and hunting down synonyms for squamous, such recognition is a lovely thing. I’m not in the business of ranking my feelings, but crossing over a professional threshold like HWA membership certainly falls somewhere in the vicinity of publishing a story or finishing a project. These are the writerly highs we can rely on.
But today I’m also enjoying a writerly feel that often strikes me as equally rare: the one that comes from rescuing a draft breaking bad. On my desktop I’ve got a ridiculous and conspicuous array of folders I deperately need to organize (Writing Priorities, Creative Writing, On-Deck Projects, Works in Circulation, Works in Progress, and Pieces to Work Up among them), but somewhere I dare not mention I have a folder that harbors my secret shame–those stories that are finished, by which I mean written from beginning to end, by which I mean gone too far for me to fix. At some point I’ll extract the core idea and begin again, but in the case of such stories the repair work calls for much more than insistent revision, which can sometimes salvage a draft from matters of defective tense, perspective, et cetera. The inhabitants of this Island of Misfit Stories involve some error I made at the outset that conditioned the entire draft, and while I can cannibalize passages for sexy turns of phrase I have to concede that the story in its current form is a lost cause.
So it’s a rare relief–or perhaps even a sign of something like maturity–that this morning I looked back at the first 500 words I’d written for Blood Rites Horror’s For Whom the School Bell Tolls anthology and realized the story in its emergent form wouldn’t get off the ground. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with the prose I’d committed to pixels, but I recognized an early commitment I’d made, exploring the psychology that motivates my main character, was bound to yield a certain kind of epiphany at the end. It would have made for a good story, I think, but not one with the effects I intend. I have the bad habit of trying not to waste prose if I can help it, but scrapping what I had and beginning again with a clearer sense of what I need is not a waste at all. It’s a necessary step for writing the finest story I can imagine.
It’s perhaps not the feel I’d most like to have on a Tuesday, but it’s an entry in the catalog of #feelz I’m learning to respect more and more as my writing life unfolds.