Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Instant Gratification

Cricket McRae

The day before yesterday I cooked up a big ol’ pot of that Colorado staple, green chili. Chopped up a pile of pork, chilies, tomatoes and garlic, then browned and seasoned and cooked for four hours. Slow food. Not to mention how much time it took to grow the tomatoes and chilies, roast them and process them for the freezer last fall. All this for what is, more or less, a sauce.

A really good sauce, mind you.

Yesterday three men came and spent two hours laying five thousand square feet of sod in the backyard. There had never been grass back there before. I’m not a lawn person, but my guy is, and I had to admit the weeds were getting old. At least we put in a super hardy fescue blend that will require half the water. For the last twenty-four hours I haven’t been able to pass by a window on that side of the house without stopping and admiring the expanse, dreaming of bocce ball and badminton and evenings spent with friends around the fire pit.

But a whole lawn in two hours? That is SO cheating! There’s a tiny part of me that’s actually offended by the notion. I know that’s a little nuts in this snappy, wi-fi, buy it now pay for it later, let’s just go through the drive-through on the way home world, but there you go.

Is that why the first thing I ever wrote, other than the required stuff in school or for work, was a full-length novel? Or why writing a series of homecrafting mysteries about the same character is so comfortable?

I’ve tried short stories. They always explode into long stories. I’d really like to craft delicate essays, precise poems, and meaningful shorts, but the idea of “and then what happened?” has always made me go further. At least so far.

Most people don’t work into their writing career that way. It’s not even advised. But the fact that I’ve gone about choosing my writing projects in a bass-ackwards way is not entirely surprising to those who know me.

How about you? Do you find the short form easier or harder to write? Are you good at both? Do you read both?

'Scuse me. I have to go start another flat of vegetable seeds now.


Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

I'm with Joe on this. I love staring at a blank page on the computer knowing I have 400 pages to "spread out" on. I've written a couple of short stories, two of which have been published, and will probably write more in the future. But my first love was and always will be the novel.

Mark Combes said...

It's a procrastination thing for. You can't tell someone that you aren't finished yet when refering to a short story. Heck the dang thing is only a couple pages long. How long can that take? But a novel...yeah, I've got good cover there when I say "I'm still working on it."

Joe Moore said...

I'd rather write a 100,000-word tome while having a root canal than face the task of composing a short story. The only thing more frightening than a short story is a 2-page synopsis of a 500-page novel.

Keith Raffel said...

I know we have to write and it's a compulsion, etc. But I want to make a living at this writing gig and novels seem a better way to go by that criterion.

paul lamb said...

The next novel I write (if I ever finish the one I'm working on) began as an idea for a short story. Then I envisioned it as a novella. Finally, I quit resisting the facts and have been conceiving it as a novel.

I've written some short stories, but they are so demanding. Still, some stories are best told that way.

Bill Cameron said...

I've written short stories off and on throughout my life, but the form was never first on my life. In tenth grade I handed in a 27 page story when the assignment called for 3-5. I was always working on a novel, even if I had to buckle down and write a short story for various writing classes or what have you.

Every now and then a genuine short story idea would pop into my head, and I'd write it without losing control of it and having it start to go long. I "wrote" one short story into a tape recorder on the drive from my apartment to the airport one morning. When I transcribed it a month or so later, it was pretty much done. Minor futzing and, damn, the piece found its way into a journal.

But that's rare. Usually it's painful. And even then, my stories are often long. I just submitted to an anthology, limit 5,000, but I couldn't get it below 5,600. So far they haven't said anything, but of course they might not take it.

I admit I've actually found myself a little more interested in short stories lately. In the last year or so, I've written five, an output that would normally require a decade. And I'm working on a new one, though I may or may not ever finish. Or, it might explode into a novel.

G.M. Malliet said...

I'm with Joe.