Wednesday, 3 June 2015

A Word on the Numbers (Three)... and Originality

Words written c28000
Stories completed 2
Rejections 48
Acceptances 1

The numbers quoted here are getting less and less meaningful - except, of course, for the acceptance and rejection tallies.  On the latter count I can report a 'near miss' from Triptych Tales for 'May Nothing But Happiness Come Through Your Door' which made it through to the final round of evaluation but fell at the last.

The main reason the numbers now don't add up to very much is that I've spent the last few weeks cutting down a 91,000 word novel to 39,000 to squeeze it into's short novella submission window.  So, does that add up to minus 52,000 words written because I've deleted them?  Who knows?  Who cares?  I'll continue to log the new material I produce on stories going forward.

A more pressing conundrum concerns originality: originality in general, and of that cut down novel in particular.  The fact of the matter is that the first act of the original novel was workshopped on, some 30,000 words.  Which means that there's significant overlap between the first 9,000 to 10,000 words of what's gone to and what appeared on Jukepop.

However, not only have huge swathes of text gone for a Burton, it's had a rewrite; the main character is now a clone whereas he wasn't before.  It's not identical, albeit identical in places.  And the latter three-quarters of the novella are absolutely new to the world.  I could have changed the names of people and places but, frankly, that would have looked like a cynical attempt to hide things.

I haven't mentioned this in my submission as I want them to love it before they discover its baggage; in pitching the novel I mentioned jukepop as a strength (it was selected as one of the opening 30 stories), but several publishers used it as a reason for not even reading it.  But I mainly haven't mentioned it to because I regard it as original.

Meanwhile, a large chunk of the backstory that has been removed can stand on its own feet, having begun life as a short story in any case about twenty years ago.  I think it may even have gone off to Interzone in an earlier life.  But that has appeared  in its entirety on jukepop.  So I will change the names, locations - and, no doubt, in the process, give it an unrecognisable rewrite - and submit that as original because it will be by then.

Raymond Chandler, I think, quite frequently rewrote short stories into novels, virtually taking each sentence as expanding it into three or four in places.

And here's the rub.  If I were an artist I could repaint the same picture over and over and nobody would regard it as anything but original.  If I were a musician I could gig the same tracks over and over - in fact, it's what the moshpit demands.  How many sculptors or potters just turn out the same thing (hares? why hares?) week after week.  They become much loved signatures.

But, as a writer, try a variation on a theme?  A cover version?  You'll get edited out with extreme prejudice...

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