Perhaps you have noticed (or not noticed, I haven’t the wherewithal to keep tabs on these things, alas), but I’ve posted the full-text of “Working Title,” my short fiction piece that recently won the Quarter Castle Short Fiction context.
I think I’ve gone on about this before, but this is a piece I’d been sitting on for nearly five years. For me, sometimes I hit a wall with a project where I just don’t know what else to do on it, and so I set it aside. I think it still needs work, but I’ve lost perspective and can no longer look at it objectively. Other times, I finish something and know it’s perfect. I don’t want to change a thing. But then no one else will publish it.
This piece was a little bit of both. I thought I was finished. No one would publish it. I did some more work. Then I hit a wall, sat on it. Eventually, I read it over again and went, “hey, it’s perfect the way it is.” And still no one wanted to publish it. I sent out several submissions, got back a lot of rejections and a lot of nothing.
I decided to sit on it for a while again. After another chunk of time, I looked at it again, still really liked it, but it was just sitting in a drawer, unpublishable. Perhaps it was the length, I told myself. 4500 words is typically just too long for most publications, but too short for a host of others. Funny, how so many things in the art world come down to mere practicalities.
I began to eye it like a scrap metal dealer. What could I salvage out of this work? Could I take the spine, fashion it into something else? Could I take the framing conceit? Cut out a passage or two here and there and work them into a smaller, more concise story?
No matter what, it felt like butchery. The story was what it was and even if I changed anything, it was as if I was taking it further from its Platonic ideal. Like Michelangelo said about the statue of David, he just cut away the stone that wasn’t David. This story was what it was supposed to be; it just felt right. If you’re a writer or an artist, do you ever feel that way? That there is some true version of your work and you just get a gut feeling of whether you’re there or not?
Perhaps this was what always frustrated me about film. I could find sublime little moments and aspects of the finished work, but I just could never hit that true version. Either the lighting was always just off, or the framing wrong, or the line reading a slightly different take.
Anyway, I digress. With “Working Title,” I was at this point where I was ready to throw my hands up.
But then I found out it won a contest. And another publication wanted to print it too. And I had to write some tough emails.
Nothing in moderation.
Side note: It’s been a busy and ridiculous time for me lately. I will update soon with details on the absurdities of life. As soon as things settle down a bit.