Wednesday, April 16, 2014

My Own Worst Enemy

Have you ever had a story to tell, and you knew it was inside you waiting to burst forth, but you were too afraid you wouldn't be able to do it justice?

This kind of stinkin' thinkin' hit me hard when I came up with the idea for my story "Soulless in His Sight." Who was I to think I could write an homage to Faulkner's As I Lay Dying and McCarthy's The Road with Diogenes (crossbow and hatchet instead of a lamp) tossed in for good measure?

Here's the concept: What if Faulkner's Vardaman didn't know his own strength, and he hurt someone close to him? His father, a violent incarnation of McCarthy's paternal character, believes his son was born without a soul. Like Diogenes on the hunt for an honest man, the father must find a soul for his son so he can go to heaven and see his mother.

On Week #9 of Write1Sub1 2011, I finally decided to give it a go. I wrote, polished, and submitted "Soulless in His Sight" to Shimmer, a market I'd been stalking for over a year. The editor eventually responded, "I've read this story a few times now, and though I like it very much, the ending still makes me hesitate. I think if you were to be more concrete with it, the story would be a home run."

I was definitely open to a rewrite, and after making a few minor edits and overhauling the end, the editor replied, "I like the revisions very much. Fatha and Boy are just great; the story has a genuine voice that shines." In spite of my self-doubt, "Soulless in His Sight" eventually appeared in Shimmer's July 2012 issue, and if that wasn't cool enough, in 2015 a reprint will appear in the Wastelands 2 anthology edited by John Joseph Adams.

"Soulless in His Sight” was a challenge for me to write, but I'm so glad I stuck with it and now have a story I can point to as one I didn't allow to beat me—and an example of my best work.

We don't have to be our own worst critics.

Believe in yourself. Believe in your work. Cool stuff will happen.

6 comments:

  1. See, this is exactly what holds me back from writing long fiction--my belief that I can't possibly do it justice. I have these stories that have lived inside my head for decades with characters I see and hear so clearly, but when I sit down to write about them, the words come out choppy and uninspired. The business side of me knows that the writing is in the rewrite, but the artist side of me just chokes, refusing to give up the words because I know I can't possibly tell the story as well as the story should be told. Thanks for sharing your story OF your story "Soulless in His Sight." I'm inspired to try again. Now, I'm headed over to Shimmer to read it--sounds quite intriguing.

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    1. Sometimes we just need to turn off that internal editor and go for it.

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  2. I have this happen quite a bit. Usually it's based on skill; I know it's a good idea, I just don't have the skill yet to pull it off just yet. Though even when I write the good ideas down and they come out pretty awesome (if I do say so myself), I find it difficult to place them. Ehhh, there's no pleasing editors.

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    1. Most of them are struggling writers themselves.

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  3. I feel that same way all the time! Right now I'm circling novella edits and feeling like I'm unable to carve the story out of what's already on the page. Guess I just need to find my stride. Thanks for always being an inspiration, Milo!

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    1. It's in there, and you'll find it. Might need to take a break, watch some Walking Dead.

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