No Net

I’m happy to report that “Futures”, a feature of Nature magazine, has agreed to publish my short story “Picasso’s Cats.” It’s a fun little piece that I wrote one night at the Writer’s of the Future workshop. Much fun.


The collaboration with John is coming along. It currently stands at about 6K words, and is back with him. This leaves me with the specter of deciding what to do next. My original intention was to jump into writing something new. I’ve managed, however, to convince myself that this is not the wisest course of actions. Instead, I’m looking at my novels. Yes, that’s right–I have novels that need to hit the market.

A few of them are technically still on the market. By that, I mean I have previously sent them to editors and have not heard anything from them. I think, however, that after three years I can enact the statute of editorial limitations and assume I’m free to submit them elsewhere. So I’ve been looking at my inventory the past day or two.Novels are such different beasts from short stories. Working on one feels different. I look at the screen and see some 200 words, but I feel the weight of the work’s entirety. It’s daunting in a way. A couple weeks ago, Lisa and I visited Chicago’s Art Institute. Her favorites are the impressionists–Renoir and Monet are her Led Zeppelins of the art world. [grin] It’s an amazing feeling to be standing up close to a masterpiece, to see the individual brushstrokes and the choice of color, and to realize that the painter–at arms length–could not actually “see” the piece. But as he stepped back the entire thing fit into place. I can imagine Monet’s sense of satisfaction as he found things that worked.

Writing a novel is like that, except there’s no way to really step back and take in the whole thing at once. A novel is a messy piece of reality that way. As an “artist” (nice pretentious word, eh?) you’re working blind and without a net. You apply your keystrokes up close and you hope they work. No. You don’t hope. I don’t think a real writer hopes their stuff is working. I think a real writer knows it works.

Right now I’m a real short story writer. I know pretty much when I’ve written something short that works. I also know scene-by-scene if something is working at a novel length. But still, after writing drafts of what–seven different novels?–I would be reluctant to say that I really understand what makes a novel work.

I said above that the novelist is working without a safety net. That’s true, I think. But as I sit here thinking about it, I see this is faulty thinking because it’s incomplete. Writing is like life. There is no safety net. To think otherwise is, perhaps, to have already lived at half-throttle.


It’s time to get them out there.

So I will.

Have a great day.

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