Wednesday, December 20, 2006

in between

the novelette

With the latest batch of LitCritters stories behind us (an excellent batch with not a single dud), we're gearing up for the next story challenge - the novelette. This is particularly challenging given the length requirement of 7,500 - 17,499 words .

My personal misgivings are based solely on the fact that the format is new to me. I haven't written anything in that particular length before. My comfort zone is the short story (my sweet spot being from 3000-5000 words). And while I have written a novel, I'm certain that the novelistic structure and the concept of novelistic space are different from the novelette's parameters.

It's writing something in between a short story and a novel while making sure that all the elements of discourse (that make a text successful and readable and worthwhile) are covered.

My developed discipline with the short story is to create a tight text, paying heed to the concept of restraint and economy despite whatever manner or tone I choose to adopt (yes, even at my most baroque or magical, the story needs to be somehow restrained). Character arcs are necessarily brief and concise, description supports the text in terms of layering and texturing, a single master story arc or idea (usually but not always) is presented, and so on.

With the novel, I have the all the space in the world - which presents its own unque challenges. There is more room to develop characters over time, more allocation for texture and meaning, setting and world-building is encouraged, and pacing becomes one of the more critical issues. I remember thinking "OMG How can I ever write anything this long? I must be out of my mind." But things worked out once I accepted the fact that the novel is a different creature altogether.

So all my anxieties about writing a novelette can only be done away with by the act of actually sitting down and wrestling with the beast. I like this task precisely because it is challenging and daunting (and at the worst of my anxiety, I think "Come on, Dean. It's just a story after all." Which comforts me for all of two seconds.

One way I can approach the thing is to do away with the labels and just write a long story - which is probably the best way. And I have to get started soon. The other approach is to think that all the other LitCritters are in the same boat haha.

Already, for the first two months of next year, I have four story deadlines: the novelette for the LitCritters, two stories for two magazines, and one for inventory. And I want to redo one of my newer stories for my collection of short fiction coming out next year (yes, as usual I am suddenly unhappy with and ashamed of one of the stories I wrote for inventory a couple of months ago). And there's that new novel both Ateneo Press and Anvil are asking for - of which I currently have an astounding 200 words in (which are so blah that they're as good a zero words).


shameless flashback

But before I completely stress out about the coming year's requirements, it helps me to take a look back at my published output this year:

Short Fiction

Four-Letter Words in Manual (magazine)
Hollow Girl: A Romance in Latitude: Writing from Scotland and the Philippines (anthology)
The Maiden and the Crocodile in Story Philippines (magazine)
Six from Downtown in Philippines Free Press (magazine)
How Rosang Taba Won a Race in Philippines Free Press (magazine)
Sabados con Fray Villalobos in A la Carte: Food and Fiction (anthology)
The Middle Prince in Digest of Philippine Genre Stories (magazine) and Bewildering Stories (online - Part One and Part Two)

Books

Salamanca (Ateneo de Manila University Press)
Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.2 (Kestrel)

A good year for me, publishing-wise: 7 short stories, a novel and an anthology.

I can only hope to publish as much this coming year. We'll see.


woman of letters

Nikki also had a great publishing year:

Doe Eyes in Story Philippines
Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers in Philippines Free Press
Bearing Fruit in Philippine Speculative Fiction Vol.2
Heritage in Our Own Voice (online)

As an editor and reader, I think Lola Ging and the Crispa Redmanizers is her best work among the many stories she developed this year.

As a fellow writer, I am envious of her control, tone and vocabulary.

As her husband, I am damn proud.

I can't wait to read more from her - both because I love her work and because I need to keep an eye on the competition.

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