Writing Posts

Musings over “Ama Te Ipsum”

I had a very different experience writing the latest short story for the Muses, which can be read here, if you’re curious (also, if you do want to read this but don’t want any elements spoiled, perhaps don’t read this post). Usually, after a prompt is chosen, I write the story pretty soon after that and then have a few weeks in-between writing it and when my story is due to edit and wait, since I’m the last person to post in our rotation.

This time, I wrote the story two days before.

I had every intention to write it earlier. I even had an idea right out the gate, as it was the month I got to pick the prompt, and I had–what was in my mind–a really cool idea regarding a sci-fi setting and a main character with cybernetics who, in a society where their soulmate was determined by a time written on their wrist, discovers that her soulmate is herself when she stumbles upon a mirror (which is also forbidden in said society). I thought it could be a really fun piece that hinted at the importance of self love that would also enable me to dabble in the science fiction genre a little bit more, which I wanted to do. I was so excited to write this piece.

But time got away from me. Life got busy. And when I initially looked at the deadline (which was the middle of August and we were starting these stories in early July), I thought I had plenty of time.

And then Friday was no longer on the horizon, but instead, within the same week, only days away, and I hadn’t written a word.

I panicked and one afternoon, I sat down and forced myself to write, because I knew if I didn’t finish it that afternoon, my story wouldn’t get done. And I really didn’t want to do that. It took a couple of times leaving the computer, only to come back to it and force the words out, before I had a draft down. I had enough time the next day to do a few little edits, but overall, that first draft was what I was stuck with.

I wasn’t happy with it.

I was concerned that my worldbuilding wasn’t ingrained well enough and that readers wouldn’t understand the nature of the world I was trying to convey. I was concerned that my readers wouldn’t connect with my main character enough, that she didn’t have a distinct personality. I was concerned whether or not my readers would understand the ending and that I didn’t set it up properly. I was concerned that the message I wanted to convey–that self-love is just as important as romantic love–wasn’t clear enough (so I resorted to cheating with putting the message as the title in a different language).

Basically, I had this idea I was so excited about yet I felt I completely ruined in my execution, thanks to not taking the proper time to write this story and instead being rushed by my deadline.

And then I read this comment.

I’ve sat here for the last ten minutes after finishing this trying to find a way to distill my thoughts in a way that will make sense, and I find it to be a far harder task than I’d have imagined. I admit, I’d guessed at the twist a few paragraphs before reaching it, but I still find it a wonderful way to subvert such a classic trope.

I also very much enjoyed how thoroughly you built out this world in so short a time, using single words or phrases within paragraphs describing otherwise average things. It gives all the advanced technology a feeling of everyday normality that does wonders for making such an otherwise alien world feel just as average and routine as ours. This is amplified by the fact that this technology seems to revolve around a kind of future-gen social networking. Like Facebook taken to a ridiculous, yet still believable, extreme. That is to say, in a world where hyper-advanced cybernetics are commonplace, it seems only natural that the world’s social networking software would have evolved in kind.

Finally, I find the thing that really ties all this together and makes it all really work is your main character’s voice. It walks this fine line between human and robotic, emotional and clinical, and seems to perfectly encapsulate the apparent dual nature of the world and society Cora lives in. I find that it’s this element that takes your story from a cool and exciting concept, brings it up to the next level, and turns it into a story a reader like myself can actually connect with.

Well done and bravo. 🙂 — Zach of Quills and Controllers

I was absolutely floored.

The first reader to comment on this story and every single element I was so worried about, they enjoyed. Which happened to be the same trend from two other readers who reached out to me and gave me feedback on that story felt. Granted, I know three people isn’t a very big pool to reach a conclusion from, yet it was still three more people than I’d thought I’d find who enjoyed the story and understood what I was trying to do.

That was…a really neat feeling.

I may, ever slowly, be figuring out this short story thing, friends. Just maybe.


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