April 25, 2008

Dotting My Ts and Crossing my Eyes

I turned in another manuscript yesterday—second one this month. Pop the champagne and let loose the white doves. Except I am pushing forward now on a third. My world generally looks like this: turn in book A, move to book B (already in progress), return to A for queries or edits, continue with B. Stop everything to read galleys for A. Start collecting stories for book D. Try to finish B and begin C.

Stop. Rinse. Repeat.

This month, I turned in Hurts So Good and Flash Fucking. Flash was one of the more difficult collections I’ve compiled. To start with, I received nearly 900 submissions. But once I’d whittled the selections down to a solid 60, then the puzzling part really began. I mean, the part where I puzzle the book together.

Can’t put a long story next to another long. Or a short to a short. Girl to girl. Boy to boy. Can’t let hardcore and hardcore butt heads, or have two vanillas in a row. I don’t generally choose too many second-person stories (I think I have five or six out of sixty). But I never want two yous together.

So I shuffle and shuffle—long, short, medium, BDSM, vanilla, boy, girl, spanking, you.

Then there are the themes. For some reason, for this book I received a plethora of stories about food: chocolate, ice cream, dinner parties, licorice. Those delicious pieces needed to be spread like icing out over the whole manuscript. I also received more than my average share of stories about Boston. (Go figure.) Every once in awhile, I can get clever. A story in which someone is afraid of being pulled over can nestle next to one about someone who lusts for a cop. A story about a dieter can whet the appetite for a piece written about cock as if the delicacy were lobster. But in general, when I run duplicate themes, I move them to opposite parts of the book.

Big themes this time: water, hotels, spanking, phone sex, showers, cheating, pain, text messaging, longing, oceans, lust, security guards, lightning, older women/younger men, Brighton.

Titles are another problem. Two stories this time used the word Hands in the title, and at one point, I had them next to each other. So I split them up. With Flash, I also had two pieces called "Bedtime Story." These stories felt like bookends for the collection, and I asked one writer to rename hers to "Once Upon a Time." Now, they open and close the book.

I like to think that when I finish a project, I can move the story out of the filing cabinet of my head. Focus my attention on the next collection. But I am always second guessing myself. Always reworking the line-up. Should that piece about tattoos have gone before the one about the auto mechanic? Would the one about catching a lover watching porn have done better in the middle than at the end?

This is one of the reasons I’m always leaping to the next collection—so I can try to pry my mind off the last project. Right now, I am waiting on approval of stories before sending out contracts, and I’m working on my nonfiction guide—Never Have the Same Sex Twice.

But today I may pop the champagne and watch doves fly.


P.S. Continuing on with Kristina Lloyd month—and in celebration of the lovely review from Alt.com—I’ve put up an excerpt from her fabulous F Is for Fetish story, Boot Camp.


Jeremy Edwards said...

Wow—it's like an erotic Rubik's cube.

Craig Sorensen said...

I can kind of relate to this post, but on a smaller scale.

I've always had this tendency to want to do just one more edit of a story. "Should I play up his pathos? Does the thought come across stronger in two sentences than one, etc."

It makes it easier when there's something else that needs to be done!

Alison Tyler said...

I didn't even get into how truly anal I am, Craig. Two stories by the same author shouldn't be next to each other. But I also try to make sure two authors with similar names aren't one on one. Can truly make my head spin!