Three, the Magic Number

Third time’s a charm. That’s what everyone says. It probably has its roots in a pagan, numerological thing which means it’s both bullshit and also true on some odd, universal level.

Sometimes, I make similar, seemingly profound statements and then go on to completely ignore them. (Well, maybe often.)  I compared short fiction and novels to water colors and oils in my last post. I then proceeded to create a second draft of my not-quite-there short story and build it around the first one. Guess what happened? Let me quote:

“For one (referring to short stories here), you need precise strokes because re-tracing your steps isn’t much of an option or your page turns to mush.”

Damn, I’m smart.

To be fair, it wasn’t that my attempt turned to mush – it retained some interesting elements and even built on them creating some intriguing stuff I plan to use in my novel. However, it didn’t really focus on the topic. And this theme of Unresolved Sexual Tension is a devilishly complex one.

Sexual tension is rarely the whole driver of plot. It’s almost always a secondary thing used to add chemistry to a different, more complex structure. It’s also something that works best with well established relationships. There is infinitely more impact from watching a couple of characters that you have grown to love as individuals starting to grope their way around those awkward moments. Mulder and Scully, for instance. Had they been on the verge of tearing each others clothes off first episode, that would have been uninteresting. They start out at odds, come together as colleagues then friends and the momentum keeps building. Freight train style, too late to get out of the way.

Literary examples are usually similar, though the star-crossed lovers such as Romeo and Juliet manage to work on the page (or stage as it were). However, developing the right relationship is tricky in a really compact space.

So, in my attempts, I kept adding detail, world building, and trying to approach the challenge obliquely. This led to the wrong results. And the evil, horrible, meanies at my crit group let me know.

Time for magic draft number three. This time, I scrapped everything. Fresh canvas. So far it seems to be working a bit better. Deadline is right around the corner, but if I play this right, I’ll be able to run it by the group and submit it at the last minute. Not ideal, but, hey, fictional work rarely is.

Now, on a different note, where if three were a magic number, I’d need to change my pants, I’m continuing to submit the novel. I’m on three rejections so far (this is decidedly non-magical). Two were form rejections and one a personal rejection. Recently, I submitted my query to the nice folks at the Bookshelf Muse and got a prompt reply with excellent feedback. I’ve also submitted the query to Query Shark, but am not optimistic about a reply given how popular the page is.  Also, I ran across this open call for submissions with Angry Robot Books.  I know absolutely nothing about this publisher, so as always, do your research before submitting but it sounds like a great opportunity.

Thrice more into the breach good friends!

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4 replies

  1. Good luck on the queries. Keep us posted. Also, what did the personal reject say? Anything new? I’ve got crit group tomorrow night and I’ve got the submissions read and edited so I’m going to make chili for the gang. I know it’s hard to keep motivated, but you’re doing a good job. Keep it up. I have to admit, a short story sale occasionally keeps me going. I can’t believe Nano is upon us already. I’m hosting Tuesday night write-ins at my neighborhood library.

  2. Thanks! The personal rejection pretty much said “sounds good, but I’ve tried a superhero novel before and it didn’t work out”. Nothing specific. Yeah, I’d love to land another short sale, I’ve got several floating around and will probably submit another next week. Anything to make my profit / loss for this venture look a bit less hopeless would be nice 🙂

  3. We’re not meanies! But you were there, they/you all gave my chapter ‘corrective’ direction the last two weeks. (One critter even wrote “I hate him.”) You just have to know who to trust as your reader and go with your gut.

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