The Projects that Aren’t

I have been thinking a lot lately about what I want to accomplish.  More pointedly, perhaps, I’ve been thinking a lot about what I do not want to accomplish.  Simply put, I have too many projects and the projects that don’t really interest me are draining my attention and energy away from the projects that do.

For example, I’ve been balancing my “novel time” between a YA novel and a complex, gritty novel for adults.  The more I thought about it, the more I realized that while I love YA books, the YA market is not who I want to write for.  I can close my eyes and relive, for a moment, that feeling of wonder and awe and hunger as I read C.S. Lewis’s The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time.  Being one of the writers who instills such feelings in the next generation would be a wonderful thing and I tip my hat to those who do it, and do a beautiful job at it.  But that’s not me.  My true love is the complicated epics that meld beautiful, painful, complex drama with real-world, adult issues:  Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time series and Juliet Marillier’s The Sevenwaters series come to mind most readily.  I love  Anne McCaffrey’s Dragonsong, but it’s the Pern series—about the complicated world full of its adult population—that really pulls me in for the long haul.  I love the complex language and the layers of detail; I love the complex characters who are more settled in themselves; I love the big picture problems complicated by the mundane and surreal problems you face in adulthood; and I love the deep emotional and intellectual drama derived from complicated agendas at odds with each other.  The stories that stir most passionately in me do not fit in the YA genre.

So, following my passion, I’m putting aside the YA novel.  While I’ll still read YA novels and I’ll still share my love of them with my children and my friends, and review some of them here, I won’t be writing any.  Not any time soon, at any rate.  Instead, I will concentrate on my adult novels.

Not writing my YA novel is just the start.  You see, I have a confession to make: I don’t get short stories.  Odd, perhaps, but there it is.  I’ve read very few short stories that really moved me, that really stuck with me.  Out of the hundreds of short stories I’ve read over the years—trying to figure out what the heck the deal is—there are only a handful of stories that I remember, and fewer still that I remember fondly.  Out of the dozens of short stories I’ve written, there are only a few I consider less than complete failures.  Fewer still that I consider worth the work it would take to make them publishable—if I can even figure out what that would require.

I’m not saying I’m going to give up on short stories entirely.  But I’m also less convinced that short story publication is a necessary component to novel publication, which is the only reason I’ve put so much effort into short stories.  The truth is that I don’t like the genre.  I prefer long stories—epics, preferably a series of epics.  I want characters and worlds and visions that are worthy of so many words.  Shorter works, no matter how well done, often leave me dissatisfied.  Even a stand-alone novel can seem like too little for me.  Most short stories don’t stand a chance.  Yet I’ve been trying to figure out the mystery of short stories, when what I really wanted was a platform for marketing my novels—novels I haven’t finished yet, because I’ve been trying to figure out the mystery of short stories.

So, now I am left with the unhappy task of weeding through my stories and deciding which I must put to bed for good and which I will try to work through.  In the meantime, I should be making much more progress with telling Jacqueline’s story, which calls to me, sings to me, murmurs to me in my sleep.

About Stephanie Allen Crist

Stephanie created and produces in answer to a call from God to use her experiences and gifts to help others. Stephanie is also the author of and two books that can be found on that site. Stephanie strives to share her love, faith, and talents in an inclusive manner to help others who know spiritual pain and who know the bitter taste of the dregs of despair.
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2 Responses to The Projects that Aren’t

  1. acflory says:

    I share your dislike for short stories…except I’ve recently read one that completely turned all my preconceptions upside down.

    The story in question won the Hugo Award for best short story. That hooked me. Then I read the story and it was like suddenly getting a haiku! [not big on poetry either I’m ashamed to say].

    On the basis of that one revelation I think I can answer your question about short stories now – the point is to encapsulate a whole world/time/culture/situation with the barest minimum of prose. Just like a haiku. When it’s done well you don’t feel cheated because the story has planted seeds in your mind and those seeds keep on growing long after the story has been read. So in a sense your mind fills in all the blanks from the clues given.

    Not sure if any of that made sense – I’m into fuzzy time now 😦

    As a general rule I prefer HUGE big books too, preferably ones that march in sequence so I can stay in that world for days, sometimes weeks. That is my definition of heaven 😀

    Great blog by the way!

  2. acflory,

    Thank you. I’m glad you stopped by!

    The comparison between a haiku and a short story makes sense–except haiku do not require plot or characterization, whereas short stories are supposed to. One of my grad school professors said (he was quoting someone, but I don’t remember who), “If a novel is a spotlight, a short story is a flashlight.” I’d prefer a spotlight, or at least floodlights or headlights, to a spotlight, too. So…

    I suspect that some people are novelists and others are short story writers, and some are both. I prefer big, huge books too. And miniseries or serial television shows over movies. I like my stories BIG.

    As far as heaven, I suspect any place deserving of the name will improve upon the experience–perhaps give immersion a whole new meaning? I can hope!

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