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Tangled Writing

Posted by Tom Benedict on 25/05/2011

Every night that’s not a school night, the whole family gets together and has dinner and a movie.  We almost never turn on the TV except for movie nights, and then only for movies.  Call us weird.  Whatever.  It’s fun.  These days Friday night is almost completely given over to Phineas and Ferb.  Not strictly a movie, but it’s a lot of fun.  The writers of Phineas and Ferb have way too much fun, and we have way too much fun watching them.

Last Saturday we watched Tangled.  I like that movie a lot.  It’s got great characters who go through some good development as the movie progresses.  It’s got a rolicking good plot line that drives the story forward.  It’s got melodrama that draws tears, and it’s got humor that makes me laugh.  As we watched I got this wrenching need to write.

I had been working on a novel on and off for years, but finally set it aside some time ago.  I don’t have enough of a handle on the craft to carry me through a novel.  At this point I don’t have the stamina, either, because I haven’t found a pace that works yet.  Some months back I forced myself to start reading short stories so I could learn to write them.

A short story is not a compressed novel.  It’s a completely different literary form.  I know that learning to write the one form doesn’t always translate into being able to write the other.  That’s fine.  Right now I’m not trying to learn a given form.  I’m trying to learn to build a character.  I’m trying to learn how to plot.  I’m trying not to bore my fellow creatures.  I’m convinced that these skills do carry over.  The execution is different for each form, but the ideas are the same.

The funny thing is I actually like short stories.  I know they don’t have the markets novels do, but they’re fun to read and they’re even more fun to write!  After watching Tangled and putting the kids to bed, I stayed up past midnight working on a short story I’ve been itching to write for some time.  It’s through its first draft and is ready for the first major revision: the pot is simmering.  Meanwhile I got two more stories on the stove and a third on the cutting board.  One of the two new ones is worth finishing.  I’ll have to see on the other two.  One more day should get it simmering as well.

I’m still trying to decide what to do with them.  It would be fun to post them here, but I really need something more out of them.  In looking at publishers, I realized what drew my interest wasn’t genre or acceptance rates.  It’s which ones write personal rejection letters as opposed to form letters.  That’s what I need more than an acceptance letter:  I need a rejection letter that will tell me what I did right and what I did wrong.

So that’s my new personal goal:  I will write short stories and finish them.  I will send them out for publication.  And I will collect every rejection letter I receive.  (I’ll collect acceptance letters, too, mind you… but that’s not part of the goal.)

Off to write!

– Tom


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