Sunday, November 09, 2008

Milestones & Millstones

I've spent the morning tarting up stories. It's harder than writing them in many ways. Whereas to write a story you open everything up, and let the thing pour out; to rewrite and revise, you have to concentrate on the detail, on the language, on the things that you're sometimes blind to in your own style. What always astonishes me at this re-write phase is how often I go to put something additional in - either a phrase or a verb - only to find it's there already a few lines down. Astonishing, because I'm terrible at remembering the detail of my stories, particularly when I've just written them.

So, for someone who always felt he was more at home in longer fiction - occasionally in poetry - I reached a milestone of sorts with my latest story. It's my 100th. Or rather since I started handing out stories in a little photocopied zine back in 1996 - it's the 100th I've "published" in this format. Less than a 10th of those have been published elsewhere, more's the pity, but it's quite a collection one way or another. I realise that over the last couple of years I've gone back to writing stories with a little more consistency and regularity than I had done for a while - and the last seven or eight would hang relatively well together. Such productivity over the years can seem equally a "millstone" in that how can I ever expect anyone to read them all? I'd like to think I've got better...but I'm not sure that art always works in the direction of obvious improvement - sometimes it's about doing things differently, or writing about different things, as much as honing a regular style.

By the way, I sorted out the problem I had with my latest story, detailed earlier, I decided the paragraph looking back on events was unecessary - partly because it turned out to be a bit medically suspect. Even in the small universe of the short story, there's a determination to not get things deliberately or factually wrong.

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