I sometimes write prose as well as screenplays. I know… the shame… delusions of being able to say in polite company that I am a ‘published’ writer, often work on my inner lack of success, as do watching awards ceremonies and thinking “If only my screenplay had been produced” – which is why I steer clear of them now.
Frustrated by certain scripts remaining unproduced, I often decide to adapt them – partly as a learning experience / for the practice, but also because I believe that certain ideas can work equally well in both formats. I’d be just as happy being produced, as well as being published.
The important thing for me is that these ideas are [hopefully] enjoyed by others. And you’re not lynched afterwards for crimes against ‘the rules’…
My main issue as a writer of prose, mainly short fiction, is that I suffer from StephenKingitis – or Overlyverboseprose syndrome as it’s known in certain circles. The main symptoms are seriously debilitating, an inability to construct tales that fit within short story word count limits and a powerful urge to fill them with pithy pop culture references, and in more extreme cases a misconception that all life occurs within a fictional county in North America, but thankfully I am undergoing therapy for the affliction.
Unlike Narcotics Anonymous, I am not aware of any support groups or steps that one should follow, when casting off the shackles of boyhood fiction assimilation, but I definitely think there should be something in place; even a writers exorcism service by the Vatican would do right now… it would be a lot quicker than staring at the written word and making brutal scratches with a red biro and uttering the mantra “I must shave off another thousand words here”. Being compelled by the power of Christ, might work for the supernatural [inner] Demons at least.
Submitting your work is akin to coming back from a blind date. Oh no! He’s peddling those shonky analogies again! Stop him!
When you replay the moment back in your head you only have your viewpoint. Not theirs. You don’t know how you performed, or even if you’ll get lucky and they’ll call you when they said they would. But you live in a perpetual state of heat that they will. That is until the weeks creep on and you realise that the ticking of the clock is a message that you should be fashioning that noose, as the only person ringing you will either be a sales call or an automated phone scam – oh and her friends already know how you performed, so don’t bother calling them too…. erm…. where was I?
Anyway, this time they did call back! Knock me down with an old fashioned quill pen and call me… anything… just call me! But I digress – again!
They love the piece, which is great, but the love is not unconditional. As part of my therapy, I have been asked by a certain zine if I can cut around two thousand words from one particular story for them to consider publishing it. This plunges me into a quandary:
I have been over this particular story three times to try and cut it and failed. It was unpublished, even after being selected by one magazine, due to the same inability of the editor to suggest workable cuts and my utter lack of editorial talent. Two years went by, while I tooled away on other fruitless projects. I can’t let that happen again. So what to do?
- If I cut it, will I kill the heart of the piece and render it lifeless? It is currently 8,844 words.
- What process / strategies should I employ to make sure that these cuts actually take place this time? Any suggestions? and more importantly
- Should I even bother? this zine is an ezine as far as I am aware, so why the limits on word count?
I am aware that word count limits exist to ensure that writing falls within certain goal posts so that it can be priced, and the amount of space that it will take up in a magazine can be calculated is important, when one has to factor in publishing costs and the ever important advertising revenue that must plug any gaps. But when the zine is not being published in print, why worry? it’s not like the pitiful [cent] value per word is the reason my stories are long. It’s just that they have a pesky way of making sure they are as long as they need to be.
Any writers out there? what would you do?
Is the last point just my coping strategy for avoiding making any further cuts or is it valid?
If I should just cut the damn thing – how do I go about it?