My story “Inundated” was published in the December 2015 anthology, Ecotones, as I may have mentioned many times. Sorry about that. I wrote the following piece for the “blogtour” we did to promote the anthology, and am republishing it here from fellow contributor and novelist Daniel Ausema’s blog.
When the theme for the anthology was announced, I was still stuck writing fragments and ‘flash’-length fiction of about 1000 words or more for the forum challenges. I found constructing longer stories quite difficult, though I’d made a few half-hearted attempts.
I’d written a thousand words of a story, “Inundated,” about a man confronted by an apocalyptic flood, and his search for his wife and daughter while the world ended. I thought it was quite neat, but the story didn’t really hang together properly: it opened well, then faded a little.
The theme was announced, and then I had to shamefacedly Google what an “ecotone” was! I was a bit scared that it meant pure eco-SF/fantasy, which I’m just not knowledgeable enough to write well.
(Wikipedia: An ecotone is a transition area between two biomes. It is where two communities meet and integrate.)
But the quickie definition from Wikipedia gave me something to go on. My protagonist, Yuri, in that story, lived on the land, but had worked the sea. I had established that the land and the sea had been in an equilibrium, but now something had changed, something had broken an old pact, and the waters were rising.
But still, I’d never written a successful story at this length, and the forum is full of writers, like Daniel, who can do this in their sleep, so I twiddled my thumbs a bit, then toyed with an idea for a story that I called “Avocado Blue” which I still haven’t written.
Finally Andrew got in touch and said “Inundated” was pretty good. Can you make it longer?
Five times longer.
I decided to give it a go, and struggled through August to draft and then edit a new version of the story. I learned a lot while writing the longer version of “Inundated”. I then learned even more when Andrew pointed out to me that I had used flashbacks (I like to call it in media res) and a convoluted narrative scheme. He gently suggested telling the story, which was by this point seven thousand words – the upper limit for the anthology, but by no means a novel – in chronological order. Oh. Right. Yeah….
I acquiesced, and saw that it improved the story almost immediately.
Even then I didn’t expect the story to make it past the reading team. They had a lot of submissions and only a limited number of slots, and there are some good writers on the SFFworld forums. When they accepted the story (subject to fixing the timeline!), it felt like I’d crossed a threshold in my writing, I’d “levelled up” into someone who could write more than a thousand words. And now I’ve got several longer stories either finished or on the go.
This is how the new version of “Inundated” opens:
“Yuri woke up to the sound of waves breaking at the end of the street, and knew that the undines had breached the final defences.“
The Kickstarter campaign to pre-order Ecotones has now concluded, but the anthology will be available on all the e-book retailers in a week or two. I’ll keep you posted.
Photo by Austin Schmid https://unsplash.com/schmidy