Heart of Farkness: Debrief

|| One of my all time favorite websites is Fark. The headlines are fantastic, and the quality of the comments are significantly better than most other sites. I tend to lurk more than interact, but they have a weekly writer’s thread that I have come to really enjoy. There’s an eclectic mix of writers, but most of them seem to be like me: they have “other” jobs, responsibilities, and all too much of that “Life” thing. So I was very excited when one of the regulars, Toraque, began organizing a Fark Fiction Anthology, eventually titled Heart of Farkness. I really wanted to be involved not just in contributing a story, but in helping with the process too. So I volunteered to be a reader, even while trying to write my story.

Then life hit. The weeks (months?) that followed my volunteering were some of the busiest I have ever had professionally and personally. Indeed I only managed to read a handful of stories before even that minimal time commitment was just too much. I chose instead to use what little time I could call my own to write instead.

The initial call for stories was for SciFi Adventures. I had had just such an idea in mind for awhile, and so I began writing Time in Service, almost immediately. And, I enjoyed the hell out of it. It became my escape, and I looked forward to the time I could steal away to work on it. The bulk of my first draft was written at a new little pub just down the street, the Three Mermaids Public House. Given Fark’s affinity for beer, it was a highly appropriate venue!

The more I wrote, however, the bigger my story became. Most of my writing has either been Flash Fiction pieces of 1,000 words or less, or NaNoWriMo attempts, so my feel for Short Story word counts is decidedly lacking. I initially guessed my story would be around 7,000 words when finished, then had to revise that to 10,000, before finally shooting for the submission maximum of 15,000 words.

I was wrong about that too, and with the deadline over a month gone now, I’m over 14,000 words with several large chunks of original text still needing to be written. Indeed, I’ve given up trying figure out just how many words it will end up being because I have only ever been wrong in my previous estimates. My best guess now is that it will be a novella, and I am happy to say that not only is it some of the best writing that I have done to date, but I am still enjoying the hell out of writing it.

While I was unable to submit my longer work, I did manage to submit a significantly shorter humor piece of 3,200 words. The spark for Awkward Vitae sprung up from a half waking dream I woke from on a fine, sunny Saturday morning. The idea so took hold of my that I sat down and wrote over a third of it before breakfast! I worked on both it and Time in Service when I could, looking to have both done just in time to meet the deadline. About a week out Life decided to throw me another curve ball, and while I (obviously) failed to get Time in Service submitted, I snuck Awkward Vitae through just under the wire.

Last week the book went live and there was a wonderful thread with folks talking about which stories were theirs. As awesome as it would have been to have add my own voice, Awkward Vitae hadn’t made the cut. In hindsight it’s easy to see how I sabotaged myself with a that oldest of dooming combinations: arrogance and inexperience. While the healthy dose of Life and work certainly didn’t help, they were also beyond my ability to control, though my decisions clearly were not.

The most obvious mistake I made was trying to work on both stories simultaneously with an eye to submitting them right at the deadline. What I should have done is focused on completing either one or the other. Indeed the volunteers organizing Heart of Farkness already had more than enough stories submitted weeks before the deadline. If I had focused on only one of the stories, and submitted it well before the deadline, I wouldn’t just have a better work, I would have also had time to improve it further if comments made it necessary.

Given the choice between the two, and being realistic about how little of my time during this period was my own, I should have gotten Awkward Vitae tightened up, polished, and submitted. If I had, I think it highly likely it would have made the cut. Although I am proud and happy with what I submitted, I also know it could have been better. In fact, it will be tightened up further, given that much more polish, and submitted elsewhere in the near future. As for Time in Service, it will also be submitted, though probably not until well after Awkward Vitae has acquired another rejection or two. (Or been published!)

Finally, I cannot overstate how impressed I was with the volunteers behind Heart of Farkness. It took a lot of hours for them, and watching it come together was a tremendously helpful learning tool. Far more goes on behind the scene in getting a book ready for publication than I had realized, and I was already assuming significantly more went on than I knew. I have talked with Mark Gardner about self-publishing the Brass Automaton Saga in the near future, and I now have a much better understanding of how much work the back end is going to take. It’s a daunting task in a lot of ways, at least for me, but after seeing the amazing result of Heart of Farkness*, I know it will be worth it!

*- Seriously you should buy it.  It’s totally worth it and all the proceeds go to charity.

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