Story Worms: Best Laid Plans
Some time back I started on the story I’m currently writing. I wrote about the call for submissions in my previous post ‘For Love or Money’. The call was for zombie apocalypse stories; looking at the different outcomes for those who were prepared for it, versus those who weren’t. It filled me with ideas, and I just had to write for it.
The original deadline was August 1st, and I found myself so busy with that thing we know as ‘real life’ (totally overrated in my opinion!), that the end of July approached without me having even hit the halfway mark. And then the deadline was pushed back by a whole month. That was just the break I needed, and left me absolutely convinced that this anthology and I were meant to be together.
My story, on the other hand, has other ideas.
It was always going to be a very gross story; focussing on people’s bodily functions, their eating habits; all those physical things we like to pretend don’t happen to us. Because that’s what zombies are – they’re the part of us we like to bury (literally!). They’re the insatiable hunger, the inhumane hunter, the uncivilised instinctive part of us. The animal part. The part that doesn’t understand societal norms and values. The part that doesn’t care about rules, or being polite. The part that will rip your best friend’s head off and drink the blood that spurts from their neck. Oh yes; it was always going to be gross.
As I’m writing this post, I’m taking a break from a late night writing session. I’m taking a break because I need to get into a nicer headspace for a while. Because this story is getting under my skin in a way that, while brilliant, also makes me horribly uneasy.
I guess everyone has their line. The line they won’t cross. The subjects they simply will not write about. Tonight, I have written up to that line. I didn’t cross it; I wasn’t able to. I did, however, teeter worryingly on the edge of it. I looked straight down into the abyss of words I am unable to commit to paper, and it scared me. I got to that point and discovered that if I continued I would either throw up on my keyboard or burst into tears.
I’ve never had such a strong reaction to my writing before. I’ve scared myself, sure. I’ve scared myself so much I was only able to write during daylight hours. But I’ve never stood so close to the line. And the funny thing about that line? You don’t even know that it exists until your find your toes touching it.
So I’ve taken this story right to the edge. It has become a far scarier, more feral beast than I had intended. It swears, it oozes, and it pisses in the street. It is not a good fit for the anthology I’m writing for. In fact, it’s not a good fit for most markets. This is going to have to find a very particular kind of home. I have no doubt that I will find the right place for it, but this anthology is not it.
Our stories don’t always end up where we expect them to. I’ve just had an acception for a fae story I wrote. A story I wrote for a different anthology that it was rejected from. So you see; never give up on a story. Tweak it, improve it, submit it elsewhere. Every story has a home, it just might need to knock on a few different doors first. Just because it doesn’t fit one anthology doesn’t mean it’s no good.
My werewolf story that I wrote about in my post ‘Writing Wolves’ was rejected. I’m upset of course, but I haven’t lost hope. It’s a good story, but I think it needs a little more clarity. I tried to do something really different with the werewolf genre, and unfamiliar ideas can be hard to portray clearly in just a few thousand words. But I know that it will find a home one day. I just need to keep trying.
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Angeline Trevena is a British author of dystopian urban fantasy and post-apocalyptic fiction. She has an impressive backlist of novels, a series of worldbuilding guides for authors, and short stories appearing in various anthologies and magazines. Despite the brutal and dark nature of her fiction, Angeline is scared of just about everything, and still can’t sleep in a fully dark room. She goes weak at the sight of blood, can’t share a room with a spider, but does have a streak of evil in her somewhere. Find out more at www.angelinetrevena.co.uk