I’m generally pretty reliable, particularly when it comes down to being on time for stuff. If I arrange to be somewhere at say, 11:00, I’ll be there at 10:58. When I worked in advertising I had a client about three hours away. One day I’d been slightly delayed (open swing bridge over the River Hull), and when I was about five minutes late said client was on the phone to me panicking a bit, because as she said, ‘You’re never late.’
This behaviour is in marked contrast to that of an erstwhile friend of mine. He was routinely an hour late, once making the effort to make it two hours one Sunday when he’d forgotten the clocks had gone forward. Needless to say he infuriated me.
This week, I had a deadline for a short story, which was April 10th. I’d been invited to contribute to an anthology, which was pleasing. I had a couple of reservations. Firstly, the anthology wasn’t really a genre I have a lot of interest in. Secondly, maximum word count was a mere 300.
Two things made me think this was an achievable endpoint. Firstly, I once wrote an entire murder story in 97 words. Motive, means, and opportunity, they were all there. Secondly, I already had a short I’d written in the genre that doesn’t do a lot for me, and how it might fit the bill. This was a bit lengthy, but I reckoned I could do some judicious pruning.
I was wrong. In typical fashion, I had approached the original story rather obliquely. It wasn’t a simple ‘they live happily ever after’ effort. There was a lot of allegorical background that made for the story’s rather whimsical charm. I wasn’t the only one who thought so, either. It was one of my many winners on the TipsyLit weekly prompted fiction competition.
So off I set. I had to get from 600 words to 300. And I couldn’t. Without the whimsy, it lost any real character. It became merely a ‘happy ever after,’ and though I’m a sucker for a happy ending (except in my horror writing, obviously), that’s all it was. Anybody could have written it. It wasn’t like my work at all.
I had to admit defeat. I’d let myself down. Worse, I’d let down the editor of the anthology. I feel very bad about that. And about the fact I didn’t tell him in a timely fashion.
Here’s the original if you’re interested.