Breaking Off, Coming Back

On Friday, I received the  news that a short story I wrote a

Unicorn and Dried Roses

 few weeks ago – “Hunting the Unicorn” – had been accepted for the Courts of the Fey anthology, edited by Russell Davis. (I don’t have a release date, yet, but when I do it will be posted to my website both as News and under “Other Works”).

As the titles of both story and anthology imply, “Hunting the Unicorn” is a fantasy piece. I’d had the invitation to submit to the anthology a while back, but for one reason or another, an idea simply wouldn’t jell.

(By the way, an invitation to an anthology is not a sure sale. It may have a slightly higher chance of acceptance than a cold submission but, if your story doesn’t work for the editor, rejection is quite possible. I’ve had it happen).

Especially when writing for a theme anthology, I do my best to make certain my contribution won’t be generic. Achieving that was my first challenge. Then there was the fact that, since I’ve been working on the Weber Project, my brain was in serious Science Fiction mode and this story needed to be Fantasy.

(Sorry. I still can’t talk about the details of the Weber Project, but I suspect the word will be out soon).

So the first thing I needed to do was separate at least part of my brain off and let it mull over things like: “Fantasy. Seely and Unseely Courts. Origin?” While continuing to write in futuristic settings, I started refreshing my familiarity with related folklore – never a great trial for me. I also looked at fantasy art, especially that of Brian Froud, Alan Lee, and the like – the people who are familiar enough with the source material to realize that the fey aren’t nice.

Making matters just a bit more complicated, the due date for my submission was right before I needed to go out to Arizona. I really didn’t want work hanging over my head and contaminating a much anticipated family visit.

Meanwhile, as if fighting for their place in my imagination, the characters and situations in the Weber Project were going along briskly. But the other started competing. Odd images floated in: dried rose buds, a black moon against a white sky. I scribbled them on a piece of paper and let them go.

The heart of any good story is conflict. From my research, I’d seen how the motif of a hunt recurs over and over again in legends about the fey. What is more a creature of Fantasy than a unicorn? Okay then. A unicorn hunt.

By Thursday, January 20, I realized I’d hit my self-imposed quota on the Weber Project and was even a bit ahead. I was also at a dramatic enough point I knew I could work my way back into the story with ease. I could feel the other story waiting. Friday, I got to work. The story caught fire. I worked both Saturday and Sunday (not my usual practice, but time was tight and the story “hot”). By Sunday when we left for our gaming date, I had a rough draft.

Monday, I polished what I had, printed a copy and handed it to Jim to proof. Tuesday night, Jim handed me the manuscript back with his comments. We also discussed the rather odd structure of the story and decided it worked. Wednesday, the twenty-sixth, I made final changes, sent the story off to Russell Davis, and then got back to work on the Weber Project.

Yep. From unicorn hunts to science fiction adventure in a day… I know some writers claim they can’t do it. I know there are times I find such transitions harder than others. However, this time the switch worked out well.

Perhaps I shouldn’t have related all of this… I know that some readers and critics seem to respect most of all those writers who hyperventilate and fuss and moan and complain. Those of us who manage to be productive must somehow care less about our “Art.”

That’s not how it is. I really love writing. I’m rarely happier than when stories are flowing and my fingers are flying.

As I tried to show above, writing steadily, sometimes on more than one project, is not easy. It takes energy. It takes knowledge, not only of writing-related techniques, but of source materials. Most importantly, it means never forgetting that I started writing because I loved telling stories a lot more than I loved almost any other way of spending my time.

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6 Responses to “Breaking Off, Coming Back”

  1. Paul Dellinger Says:

    When we sit back leisurely and enjoy these works, maybe with a cup of coffee or something, we (or at least, I) seldom stop to think of the work that has gone into them. This is a good wake-up call.

  2. Jane Says:

    I agree with what Paul said. It is work…but it also takes a special gift. I enjoy good stories and interesting characters. I’m grateful for the talented people that take the time and effort to express them so well – in short stories, books, movies, TV, etc.

  3. heteromeles Says:

    You know, I was just reading about what might be called a “unicorn pig” (Kubanochoerus, even has its own Wikipedia entry) when I saw this. It was four feet tall at the shoulder, weighed around 1000 pounds, and males jousted with the horns. They lived during the Miocene, and their fossils have been found from China to Russia.

    Oh well, I suppose that’s too bizarre for a fantasy story. Hunting the giant unicorn boar, a shadow out of time. Can’t tell if it’s better as a medieval unicorn fantasy or a riff on the story of Adonis. And the sexual symbolism is even more interesting than the usual unicorn story, come to think of it.

    Things I read to waste time! Thanks for the blog entry.

  4. janelindskold Says:

    I don’t think you can “read to waste time,” heteromeles.

    Things like your unicorn pig might come back to life in a story many years down the road.

    I read widely and voraciously for just this reason: to feed the Muse. However, you can’t ever be sure what she’ll give back.

  5. Ann M Nalley Says:

    I believe both in perspiration and in inspiration. I have heard many accounts of authors who “heard” the Muse coming to them… I ‘ll have to research the one specifically of whom I’m thinking… she would rush out onto the meadow by her home in the wilderness when she heard the poem rushing by on the wind.. she would feel it rush into her head, go inside, write it down.. Yet…and then sometimes one writes, waits, read the work, reworks, hears the different voice emerge. I have had poems come into my head in complete form, delivered by who knows what. The same with painting… sometimes it feels like someone else is holding the brush… but I have never written a book of any kind! I admire that talent so greatly!

  6. heteromeles Says:

    Heh. Ordinarily I agree with you. The problem is that I was reading up for the setting for something I *am* writing. Unfortunately, the book had this great picture of Pokey the Pig, and I got distracted. Then you mentioned unicorns, and I got distracted again. Maybe it will surface again, maybe not, but the thought of combining a wild boar hunt and a unicorn hunt is certainly mythical. Or something.

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