my oeuvre, part two (or: more stuff I’ve written, by me)

(Part one is here.)

I think it was around this point that I decided that I was never going to seek conventional publication, so I could stop worrying about how long things needed to be for commercial purposes.

So, now, stories get to be exactly how long they need to be to do their jobs.

 
Stevie One

Well, I think this is as good as I get, at least so far. The main story turned out exactly as well as I hoped, and the secondary story was the third attempt — and the first successful one — to tell the story of two of my favorite characters.

Plus, when I started writing it, I set myself a goal of 42,000 words or less (that’s how long A Sane Woman is), and it ended up being around 10,000 words less than that.

(Some people may boast about their prodigious word production, but to me the great achievement is concision.)

 
One Night at the Quarter

In the X-Files TV show, there were mostly two kinds of stories: monster-of-the-week and mythology. After the concision and focus of Stevie One, One Night at the Quarter swings a bit in the other direction. I let it go where it wanted to go.

Not that it’s long (32,500 words), but a lot of unexpected things happened as I was writing it. The “wrong” person solved the mystery, and two people who I couldn’t imagine liking each other ended up in bed. Several times. And my planned Tarantino-esque bullet-filled ending became a nice quiet scene with two middle-aged women, both crazy, having a pleasant evening conversation on a rooftop, Definitely the road less traveled.

I just re-read it yesterday, and I think it’s really good, but it’s probably not what I would recommend to a brand new reader. Definitely more “mythology” than most.

 
Michael

A character whose story I had to tell. That was sort of true with Stevie One as well, but Michael is entirely at the center of his story (Stevie isn’t even aware of a lot of what goes on in her story).

I don’t usually start with a character (usually I start with something like “Hey, what about a murder mystery set in a newspaper office?”), but sometimes you have to go where the story wants to go. Including writing in first person as somebody other than Marshall. Been some decades since I’ve done that.

 
A Princess In U-town

I don’t like to do a lot of research, so sometimes I try to figure out what I know already and how that could be turned into a mystery story.

In this case, I really wanted to get some use out of all of my (otherwise useless) knowledge about royalty and rules of succession and related subjects.

(I tried to get “letters patent” into the story, but it didn’t fit. Of course, the story could easily lead into a sequel.)

Plus, it was fun to share one of my obsessions with the detective I’ve been writing about for all these years. I can’t imagine she’d be into Dark Shadows or the Fast and Furious movies, but royalty? Yeah, I can see that.

 
The Bus Station Mystery

Well, a bunch of characters, strangers, stuck in a single location by natural forces (weather, in this case), and there’s a murder. What could be better? (I mean in a story, of course.)

Very Agatha Christie, obviously, but also Ellery Queen (The Siamese Twin Mystery), and even The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.

I thought when I started that Jan Sleet would limp in at the end to explain what happened, but that didn’t turn out to be necessary (and getting her there would have required a lot of explaining).

I think it works better this way anyway.

 
The Marvel Murder Case

Before u-town, before the mass murderer, her musician boyfriend, and their dog, before the three siblings with the gold skin and the blond hair (and the telepathy), before the superhero, before the tiny teenage girl with the superhuman strength and the pointy ears — before all that, there was a very tall, very skinny reporter, in a very nice suit, and her assistant, who was not yet long-suffering.

This is a story about them.

 
There are links to these stories, formatted for e-readers and printing (you know, on paper) and easier screen reading here.

 
So, my next story? I’m thinking of a murder mystery, set in a nursing home. I’ve spent quite a bit of time in nursing homes in the last few years, and I was keeping my eyes open…

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4 Responses to my oeuvre, part two (or: more stuff I’ve written, by me)

  1. Maggie says:

    I’ve been thinking a lot about big word counts lately, and how it’s so easy to get the words down on paper. It’s not much of a challenge for me anymore. The real challenge is to cut it down into something that makes sense… being concise is being a powerful writer.

  2. I think there are two aspects of this: things that don’t need to be there at all, and things that don’t need to be all detailed. Sometimes just a hint is fine, and casual readers may miss some things (and that’s okay).

    There’s a scene in Stevie One where there are three conversations going on at once, and if you miss the two less obvious ones, you can still understand the story.

    But it does take work. To paraphrase an old newspaper adage, I would have written a shorter novel, but I didn’t have enough time.

  3. SB Roberts says:

    So that means I have two down and several to go. Once this crazy school year is finished, I need to finish the rest of them. 🙂

    There’s something to be said for allowing the story to be the length that it needs to be, not a required length. It’s one of the only things that keep me sane when a third of my 7th graders decide that the three page max limit for a short story assignment is far to short and end up handing in 5+ pages instead. Good thing they’re cute… and most of the longer stories were well done. 🙂

  4. I think constraints of that type can be good. You learn that in writing rock and roll songs for example. Or mystery stories.

    But, especially after you do it for a while, you learn the benefits of breaking out also.

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