Why I wrote Safe Waters for the Sirens anthology.
In short, I didn’t.
Or at least, not completely. Writing’s a funny thing: sometimes the whole story is magically there and it’s simply a matter of setting it down. This is always great because there’s no effort involved. Or, at least, there isn’t until an editor casts an eye over what you’ve written and starts with the corrections…
Sometimes, though, writing is like chasing a shadow by moonlight. You get a glimpse of what you’re trying to achieve, you can nearly reach it … and then it slips out of your grasp. The damn thing refuses to reveal itself. Oh, you can try forcibly pinning it to the page, hammering out a proper middle and ending, but very often that results in a lifeless, unsatisfying product. Worse, it gives you a story which isn’t the story you know you really want to write.
One of the things I’ve learned as a writer is the value of setting things aside and moving on. Sometimes the subconscious continues to work and you wake up with the story in your mind one morning, fully-formed and visible. Or you might forget about a piece completely, perhaps never to return to it.
That was roughly what happened with Safe Waters. I wrote the opening five hundred words or so several years ago, but the middle and the ending remained elusive. They were there, I knew, lurking in the unlit depths, but I couldn’t see them. I even moved the document to my “Going Nowhere” folder (oh yes, there are lots of monstrous things in there) and moved on.
And then I saw Rhonda’s call for submissions for her Sirens anthology and everything clicked into place. I could see the whole story and where it had to go. It seemed to me the story could fit in very nicely; it was about sirens, but in an upside-down, unusual-setting sort of way. I thought it had a chance, so I finished the tale and sent it off.
To my immense satisfaction, Rhonda liked it.
There’s a lot to be said for simply keeping on writing and seeing what comes out sometimes, but I think the opposite can be true, too. If a piece isn’t working, choose to set it aside.
It’ll still be there waiting when you hear the siren’s call…
Simon Kewin is the author of over 100 published short and flash stories. His works have appeared in Nature, Daily Science Fiction, Abyss & Apex and many more. He lives in England with his wife and their daughters. The second volume in his Cloven Land fantasy trilogy was recently published. Find him at simonkewin.co.uk.
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