I have just sent the completed second draft, fully typeset, and nailed into book form, of ‘A Scar Of Avarice’ to my proof-reader. ASOA if you have been paying attention to my Blog, Twitter feed or Facebook accounts is a short novelette which came about as a passing idea about a month ago. That it has only taken a month to get from the first idea to this state of affairs is astounding given my usual timescales, but more on that later.
I was working through the drudgery of the third draft of ‘A Spider In The Eye.’ which is still not actually a complete first draft if the truth is ultimately told as I was struggling with the last couple of chapters. One of the problems I was having was actually a few chapters further back. I had this well-crafted section of about 5000 words, a couple of chapters worth, which while it was perfectly fine in of itself, quite good in fact, it did not, however, work in the novel as a whole, and I knew it. I needed to cut it, well most of it, as there were a few bits of it I needed in my story. Even then the main reason it did not fit was not the chapters themselves but a couple of new chapters I had written in the third draft which made these ones now not fit.
The main problem is I hate throwing something good away, just because it doesn’t really fit, so I was stalling myself and walking in circles. They had to so I could get on with the novel, but I did not want to let them go…
It was about then I came up with a passing idea… which was not entirely new to me, as the main character in ‘Spider’ Harry Smith came about from another discarded bit of writing from the middle of Passing Place. Though that is not entirely true. I planned out the character and was going to write him into Passing Place, as I did many others, but then decided I liked him so much I was going to try and write him in his own novel. Fast forward several re-imaginings of Harry, who merged into Hannibal Smyth, of Her Majesties Air Navy and several years later and that’s what I have done.
So? I asked myself. Why not put him back in Esqwith’s Passing Place, passing through between what for want of another word we will call his adventures. Which is what I did, a short novelette, merging Passing Place and Hannibal Smyth, with old Harry telling one of his tall tales to Richard, the Piano Player in my impossible bar… A quick 10000 words and I have something small I can give away, and look its half written already with the 5000 from ‘Spider…’
Oh, what fools are we, whom make vainglorious plans…
As it happened the easy bit was the Passing Place, it was ridiculously easy to fall back in love with Richard and Sonny discussing impossible things with a glass of brandy in their hands… I knew just how to write them, just the feel of the words was right. The Hannibal story took more work because adapting a section of a novel into a working narrative somewhere else is not as easy as you might think, there was a whole lot of rewriting involved. Yet that too was easier than I thought, though 10000 words came and went in no time and it ended up closer to 15000. Which was a bit bigger than I planned, and left me in a strange quandary.
It’s an unspoken truism that short story collections do not sell. Anthologies for that matter sell even less. It’s not entirely true, but the market for them is limited it has to be said, even poetry books tend to sell more. But that said, I like short stories, some of the best work of Gainmen, King, Pratchett and dozens of other authors is in short stories. But those names have something in common, which is they sell millions of novels. So even if a short story collect is not going to sell as well as a novel, they are still going to sell a lot of them. Me on the other hand… Well, I sell a reasonable amount but I ain’t setting the charts on fire… And part of the motivation behind doing ASOA was to try and fish for new readers.
But here I am with something longer than I expected, but too short to be a ‘real’ book on its own. By ‘real’ in this sense I mean to turn into a paperback as well an ultra cheap e-book. But the story was written, and it wasn’t going to get any longer. While it was not my original intention to turn this into a ‘real’ book, now it was written I found I wanted to, and the only way to do that without having something hideously expensive in relative terms for a 70-page book, was to add something else.
‘A Scar Of Avarice’ did not set out to be a short story collection, and it still isn’t it is mainly one novelette, just that little too short to be a novella, but I do have a lot of short stories laying around on my hard drive waiting for something to happen to them. Not least because some were one written with Passing Place in mind that never made it to the final novel. A few are submission I never got around to submitting to magazines, and some are just silly tales I wrote for the pleasure of telling myself a silly tale. So with that in mind, I had lots of stories to chose from.
In the end, I wrote one from scratch based on a three-line scribble in a notebook, under the heading ‘The Devil Made Me Do It.’ The best of my submission pieces (IMO) which seems apter than ever in these halcyon days of fake news politics, a strange little jaunt called ‘The Ballot’… And finally, more out of a weird sense of duty to an old joke between me and some friends a tale about goblins, as I have been threatening to put a goblin short story at the back of one of my novels just for the hell of it for years now.
‘A Scar Of Avarice’ is not a short story collect. It just has a trio of short stories included in the book. They are not padding, they are there because I wanted to give a little more. And in truth, I am more than a little fond of those stories, so hopefully, others will be too.
And somehow I have managed to complete the whole project (up to proofreading at any rate) in just under a month …
If only ‘A Spider In The Eye’ would be that easy …