I had an idea, months ago, for a series of short stories centered around a failing recording studio (loosely based on Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, which, to the best of my knowledge, is not in any way, shape, or form failing.) I completed the first story in this series back at the end of December. Called War Heroes, it follows a couple of young musicians from when they first start out in NYC to their final record some 25 years later. So far, I’ve had two people read it: my mother, and a cousin of mine. I’ve received two very different critiques.
The problem I had with Heroes was leaving it as a short story. There’s a lot of ground to cover in just over 11,000 words, and I thought I did a decent job of it. Both critiques agreed it was an intriguing story and had some great elements to it (particularly the character development) but where they differed was my mother thought it would be fine leaving it as a short story. My cousin’s recommendation was it would benefit from either a) focusing on only a few time points (the narrative switches back and forth between the past and the present) or b) turning it into a full length novel.
It was incredibly hard to walk away from the story at the length I left it. I wanted to dig into Jonah and Greta’s story, the story of their lives together and the music they made. I even had my inspiration all lined up: Thurston Moore and Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth. But I made myself stick with my promise, and War Heroes currently stands as a short story.
Because to turn it into a full length novel will require some Herculean effort on my part.
Writing romance novels flies right by for me, in much the same manner that I read them. They don’t take up a lot of my time. Maybe this is a fault on my part, but at this point, I’m not terribly concerned. Once the main character gels for me and I’ve got a basic plot in mind, I can knock out a manuscript in a few weeks. When I go back and do the first round of edits (I’ve never actually gotten past the first round of edits on anything I’ve written, really) I find I over use a lot of words, so I spend much of the time substituting or re-writing sentences or paragraphs. Apparently, I used the word “try” a hell of a lot in Finders Keepers. And “but”. And “not”. Google Docs counted 17 instances of the word “but” in chapter 1 alone. Now it’s more like ten, and that includes occurrences where it pops up as part of another word, such as tribute.
If I decide to take Heroes to the novel level, it’s going to take far more effort than anything I’ve written so far. It’s a daunting task, one I’m putting off for a variety of reasons. First, I promised the BF I wouldn’t write anything else new once I finished Not About Love and would focus on editing stuff I’ve already written (the exception would be another short to go in the original series). Second, I’ll never get anywhere if I don’t spend some time polishing what I’ve got. I wrote Love with the intention of submitting it directly to Entangled, and unless I spend time making it a better novel, I’ll just get shucked right into the “absolutely not” bin. I need to do the second round of edits for at least the first part of the Shadowdemon trilogy, and as one of my birthday goals for the year, I swore I’d finish the edits for Vanishing. I can’t write a query letter until I’ve got something worth sending. Third, once I finished writing Heroes, I came up with the idea of submitting it to the Writer’s Digest contest (thanks again, Shannon, for posting the link, otherwise I’d never have heard about it!). If I didn’t succeed there, I’d start shopping around to other literary magazines that may offer to publish it. In other words, finding a home for it. I should be more worried about making it the best possible short than trying to stretch it out into another 70,000 plus words.
By far the biggest reason, though, is the amount of effort it’ll require on my part. I want it to matter. I want it to be important. In order for that to happen, I have to fill in the gaps. I have to imagine a whole quarter of a century of these people’s lives, not just the short snippets that made it into the original story. It’ll require more research on my part (I don’t know a whole hell of a lot about the recording industry and though the BF is a trained musician, his knowledge is pretty limited as well). It will take far more concentration and a bigger vocabulary than I currently utilize.
Ultimately, I want the characters to matter to you, too. I want you to laugh with them, cry with them, celebrate their highs and bemoan their lows. A terribly lofty goal, one that I may not achieve or even pursue. I don’t know if it’s a challenge I want to take on. It’s not a romance, or a “love story” as my grandmother-in-law would call it. It’s a story about love (and yes, I totally just ripped off 500 Days of Summer, quite possibly the best JGL movie from the last couple of years.)
Who am I kidding? I’m totally going to tackle this. I’ve got my goal for the year between my 32nd and 33rd birthdays: write the first draft of Jonah and Greta’s novel. Now I just have to turn 32 so I can start it.
Is it November yet?