Saturday, 1 October 2011

So much to say, should I say it?

When I was much younger I wrote a novel which still, somehow, exists. That was in the pre-history my kids cannot truly believe it was possible to suffer. No computers, no mobile phones, no Facebook, no copy-and-paste. (In fact, of all the aforementioned, my love affair with copy-and-paste is deep and shall be neverending.) Although for years I haven't looked at this book. At the time I was possessed. I worry about this. I thought I had a brilliant story, brilliant characters. I think I killed a stand-in for my smug ex-boyfriend in a miner's pit in the desert. Nice one, that. The book also mapped my going away, my departure from the Sydney culture of the 70s and 80s that I was steeped in. It's grown quite trendy I see, going back there. Perhaps I could glean some material?

I wrote several books after that, all came close to publication until the last - bless her! - was taken up and is coming out soon. What remains are dozens of short stories, my deepest most fitful passion, and a huge Ghanaian love story/novel requiring major revision that I don't want to lay to rest.

Importantly, no agent wants short stories. No matter how kindly good short story writers tell you to push, to try, there's a market out there. Even friends who borrow my english books, they have to be urged to try stories, and may or may not come back raving. That's why while I am back with my laptop in the graceful morning light of my bed - my camp site - eeking out my new stories, the printed draft of my novel is sitting patiently on the covers, expecting my red pen and a trip to the bar.

And what about interconnected stories? Long ago a super agent told me if I couldn't provide the Big Novel (she loved my story in a Virago anthology) why not a series of interconnected stories? I was horrified, almost insulted. But how could a short story assume its place next to something else, something pre-conceived or pre-packaged like some cheap confection? Neither one nor the other - pah!

And yet this year I started it. Or they came to me, they were not forced. An event perhaps too close to my own bones and a group of people going backwards, pulling against each other. Am I wrong to enjoy writing these? Coaxing out stories with their quick cadences and reachable word limit - so much less oppressive than the stamina and pace and self-drive required for the production of a 200+ page novel?

Am I a cheat?

That is what is happening now and I am wondering. Whether each story is coming from the right place - the turning-over-of-your-stomach that has to be pinioned and unveiled, and whether the stories will truly stand up together as a credible bound thing or look like a 3-in-1 offer, neither one nor the other?

In the meantime I won't stop too long to question. Just get it down, just get it down.

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