1 Mar 2009

Starts with a sigh, ends with a high (of sorts)


On the workshopping site I frequent, Clean Until the Final Act has gone down like a sack of onions. I would have said potatoes but onions have more layers, which if you read on will make a little more sense. It appears all the subtleties have been spectacularly overlooked and the story is just a predictable revenge tale. Rather unfortunate, to put it mildly. But I don’t see the point of trying to explain. After all, can I be there to point out to every potential reader that, for example, there may be a reason why Triggerman Joe’s speech is all italicised? No. Or that one of the themes is the (ab)use of religion as a means to an end (in this case violence)? Again, no. So, um why bother? Besides, maybe the story, which I had high hopes for—the highest, in fact—does indeed stink. I don’t think so, but then I wrote the damn thing. Time or rejection slips will tell...

My usual reaction to a small disaster such as Clean Until is to do an about turn and head in the opposite direction. So, my densely-written treatise on religion/religious motivation segues into a simple tale about a boy who sees sharks. Oh, and dead people. Well, actually it’s one dead person. His brother. Anyway, instead of taking three weeks to write the first draft of this story, it’s down in just two sittings. Admittedly, it’s rough, as in unreadable-to-anyone-but-me rough, but all the elements of what I call the surface story are there, in place. All they need now is some care, attention, and much polish. The title, if anyone is interested, is probably one of my best: Sand Between a Dead Boy’s Toes. I think the finished story may live up to that and at the same time heal the wound caused by the response to Clean Until...


Rich said...

Wow. Even the mighty have downbeat days, lol.

I think your being hard on yourself. Don't forget the average reader on CB is looking at every story from a point of view of trying to take it apart. That's not the same when a reader or an editor looks at it. Sometimes, particularly after something so intense as the flash league, you can get a bit jaded.

I think Clean Until is still quality writing. I have no doubt you could place it somewhere. A lot of question is taste. I don't really do subtle and must admit to liking the Jack Ketchum style of writing which is very immediate. Hope you get somewhere with it, it still smacks of a higher quality than most work on CB.

Looking forward to Sand Between a Dead Boy's Toes. Fantastic title.


Ian said...

My apologies for still not having read it, Steven. (Just tried to and the site is down...) How can I put this? Theme is not one of the things most commonly discussed there; I think this is common to most sites. Raise the bar too far and people just walk under it. ;)

Brian G Ross said...

Ian makes a valid (and very nicely made) point. Workshops are filled with genre writers, a lot of whom won't give a monkey's left one about diggin' for thematic relevance.

The most important thing is not to let negative comments take you down. You don't have to please everyone and, let's face it, you ain't gonna.

It's a good story, but you don't need me to tell you that. After this many years at the keys, I'm sure you can sense whether somethin' is good or bad.

Onwards and upwards, man!


Steven J. Dines said...

Thanks for the boost, guys. I'm busy with the next project at the moment, but I'll return to the sci-fi piece in time, assuming it doesn't place somewhere in the interim. I AM happy with it, for now. But I hope editors will see what its few reader so far have not... Onwards, indeed.