July 30, 2017

WRITING ADVICE: Can This Story Be SAVED? #14 “Old Guitar Man, New Guitar” (Submitted 10 Times Since July 2013, Revised Once)

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 a pro children’s writer and started this blog by sharing (with permission) the advice of several other writers I know). 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:
When the instrument is rejuvenated after the player has been, do fond memories disappear?

Elevator Pitch (What Did I Think I Was Trying To Say?):
The time will come when our lives can be extended, perhaps indefinitely. A popular folk singer whose life has been extended faces a choice – get his beat up, memory encrusted guitar rejuvenated or retire in  a blaze of glory.

Opening Line:
“There was a way to retire, but Arnaldo Celis wasn’t sure what it was.”
From this point on, I TRY and weave a story of a folk singer who’s contemplating retirement, who lives in a future where climate change has been ameliorated after we have First Contact with aliens who’ve been watching us from the Kuiper Belt for some time – and they are part of a vaster Unity (it ties into a Universe I’ve built but have never had a story published in (except for “Oath” here: http://www.stupefyingstoriesshowcase.com/0130826/0130826-40.html). So there are aliens, high technology, and personal angst. Finally, he meets with his ex-wife who tells him that he KNOWS what to do. So he does. He retires.

What Was I Trying To Say?:
My own 12-string guitar means more to me than I can tell you – though I attempt to in this story – and I honestly think that given the choice of retire or have the guitar rejuvenated, I would probably retire.

The Rest of the Story:
I pretty much laid it out there – though sometimes the background overwhelms the story. One person said that the science is unbelievable…I don’t know HOW that’s possible…it’s SF with several tropes woven together. Interstellar Civilization, life extension, and Recovery of the Wild. I don’t use any ideas that aren’t out there already.

End Analysis:
I don’t know WHY no one likes this story! A good friend of mine and executive editor of the online magazine STUPEFYING STORIES said that in the end, the story was well written but that he felt… “unexcited”. What the heck does THAT mean???? True, it’s subjective. I’ve not recommended stories to him for inclusion in the magazine because they were technically fine but didn’t leave any kind of impression on me. But I can say that for the tens of thousands of stories I’ve read in ASIMOV’S, ANALOG, F&SF, LIGHTSPEED, CLARKESWORLD, and IGMS. In fact the vast majority of stories don’t penetrate my heart. Some do: “The Mountains of Mourning” (Lois McMasters Bujold); “Nexus” (Michael F. Flynn); “A Case of the Stubborns” (Robert Bloch, F&SF, 1976 (!)); a very few others…

I was trying for great here and I’ve met…a brick wall.

Can This Story Be Saved?
I could remove the aliens (though I think THAT’S humorous) or Arnaldo’s gay manager, or his ex-wife, or…I CAN sharpen the focus by removing all of those things. But I think that I wanted the story to be an unremarkable slice-on-life, where someone who lives in a fantastic future ignores all of “that stuff” and is concerned with his own life just as we are here and now. I live in a fantastic future that my grandparents wouldn’t have recognized at all. Even my dad has trouble with the phone and remote looking “so much alike”…

Anyway, I love this story. I’m probably going to take a stab at it again, but I need some feedback. If you’d LIKE to read the story, email me at gstewart75@hotmail.com and I’ll send the MS as is. If not, maybe I’ll have good news about this someday!

Image: https://s-media-cache-ak0.pinimg.com/736x/9f/22/3b/9f223b1e57a36e14db3eb13715fbe3f9.jpg

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