March 12, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #11 “The Stars Like Nails” (Submitted 9 Times Since 2014, Revised Twice)

In September of 2007, I started this blog with a bit of writing advice. A little over a year later, I discovered how little I knew about writing after hearing children’s writer, In April of 2014, I figured I’d gotten enough publications that I could share some of the things I did “right”. I’ll keep that up, but I’m running out of pro-published stories. I don’t write full-time, nor do I make enough money with my writing to live off of it, but someone pays for and publishes ten percent of what I write. Hemingway’s quote above will remain unchanged as I work to increase my writing output and sales, but I’m adding this new series of posts because I want to carefully look at what I’ve done WRONG and see if I can fix it. As always, your comments are welcome!

ANALOG Tag Line: What would forcing your child into a career of YOUR choosing; and then losing that child do to your ability to perform your job to save a world?

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?) That life goes on, then you die – or someone you love dies…or someone somewhere dies and you have no idea why or if it had any meaning…

Opening Line: “My boss led me to believe that in the council chamber on this frozen world of Sirmiq, I would find enlightened discourse.”

Onward: Gordon Oyeyemi  is a clone of the Confluence of Humanity who has been on active duty for some three hundred Solar Years. Married with two children, he’s now a widower with one son left. His daughter and wife died in a bloody insurrection and now he’s trying to force his son to do what he was gengineered to do: communicate clearly. The only problem is that on a backward world locked it its ice age, his son is murdered. Negotiations have fallen apart, and Gordon is about to end his career in both a personal and professional shambles while on the surface waiting to take his son’s body home.

What Was I Trying To Say? I first submitted it in August of 2013. It usually takes me about six months to a year to write a short story, so let’s just assume that I wrote it during the summer of 2012. A year before, my wife had been diagnosed with breast cancer, suffered a double mastectomy, and then endured six months of chemotherapy. She was at that time, a breast cancer survivor. That was also around the time when my faith was shattered. Thanksgiving of 2012 had seen the onset of lymphedema as well. We’d left our old church in 2011 or so after the woman pastor deeply wounded my wife.

I was angry. This story shows that clearly. I was trying to say that nothing matters; it doesn’t matter how hard we try, life still sucks…

The Rest of the Story: The story ended with the grandmother of the boy who murdered Gordon’s son falling from a cliff after they’d spent a night in silent, frozen vigil. With down, they were able to communicate and she explained how the murder was her fault because her grandson had been badly raised. Gordon insists that it’s all HIS fault because he was unable to get the opposing parties – one that favored joining the Confluence of Humanity; the other the Empire of Man. Bitter argument had not budged either side and the population of the world was divided. Add to that the fact that in the oceans of the world, swam a creature whose blood carried a compound that could seriously extend the lifespan of Humans.

As Grandmother fell, instead of screaming, she’d called out the Inupiaq word for “balance”. She meant for her death to balance the life of Gordon’s son. But he wasn’t buying it. His final reflection implied that he was going to commit suicide.

End Analysis: This is a grim story. ANALOG would never publish it mostly because it’s primarily internal reflection and dialogue. There’s no action except the murder, and that’s offstage. Grandmother’s death has nothing really to do with Gordon. It’s her own choice – he wasn’t consulted and his agreement or disagreement with her choice is irrelevant. It’s a helpless and hopeless story – except that, in the end the colony chooses to join the Confluence, preventing a war over the resources. Both Confluence and Empire have dreadnaughts hovering over the planet. Each could take on the other in a firefight, so there is a balance of power there as well…

F&SF said: “I really love the diplomacy premise because it provides the perfect setting to explore cultural and social conflicts resolved through intelligence instead of fists, which I feel like I don't see enough of. But overall this story just didn't connect with me so I'm going to pass on it.”

GIGANOTOSAURUS said: “The writing is strong, but ultimately the story just didn't grab me.”

Can This Story Be Saved? I don’t think so. The message is grim. I sent it to F&SF, ASIMOV’S, CLARKESWORLD, APEX, STRANGE HORIZONS, INTERGALACTIC MEDICINE SHOW, GIGANOTOSAURUS, THE DARK, and in the end, I did send it to ANALOG. No dice.

But my thoughts still stand. My interpretation of the world also still stands. Given what the story was about then and the number of times it was rejected and the markets that tossed it back at me, I don’t see that there’s any way of fixing it. It will go into the dustbin until…well, it decays into its component electrons.

No comments: