anthony dobranski online


The new novel

On November 18th of alternate years, Mr Earbrass begins writing ‘his new novel’. Weeks ago he chose its title at random from a list of them he keeps in a little green note-book. It being tea-time of the 17th, he is alarmed not to have thought of a plot to which The Unstrung Harp might apply…
–Edward Gorey, The Unstrung Harp

I finished a novel this year, finally. It took me a very long time to write and rewrite, and I am still unsure what I am doing commercially as I look for an agent.

Fellow writers immediately asked me what my new novel would be.

Honestly, I had no idea. I still don’t. This may be what a generous person could call a process. Just as Demon did, the new novels seem to be finding me. A local web newspaper asked me to try a serial historical mystery. My last short story has the seeds of a short novel.

But the push seems unseemly. I want to date a bit after my long divorce. It won’t take so long next time. Of course, it will take less time if I immediately put to work the skills I just mastered.

Thing is, there is a professional value in having short work to submit. If it is strange and niche, so be it, better I learn this now; but I also have two modern-day stories in outline. Skills I honed on the novel get used in all writing. I’ve certainly learned to keep things brief in the first draft, to save editing later. It can always grow, in depth and richness — start by making it move.

The question of genre is bedeviling. My genre is dense stories of problematic people failing to connect. I don’t see good actors only appearing in one kind of movie (though that does happen in New York stage theater). I just want to be a hydroponic medium for stories, a special streamlined soil in which they can grow colorful and strange.

Perhaps this is too much to ask. I will have to see where I find a toehold.

I am sorry to have been away for a while. I thank my continued readers and commenters (even on a tech post!)


The pre-apocalypse

My writing group noted that my new story, though a different setting, is also a post-apolcyalypse tale, or at least post-disaster. One colleague included my novel in that theme, even though in my novel things are good, but about to get worse. It’s pre-apocalyptic, she said.

Something in that. My faith is that humanity will persist, but a lot of bad things are going to happen. By the standards of the past they already have. Like my mentor Philip K Dick, I’m less pinpointing details of the great shift, just exploring scenes after upheaval, where people have adapted to far different norms of environment and behavior. I no doubt absorbed this from my family history, for my parents fled war and Soviet occupation, and my own late 20th century life, where we took on huge social changes, and where the rest of the world changed vastly more. I greatly admire writers like Jim Shepard and Harlan Ellison, who change up place and time each story yet keep consistent in their approach and style.

Perhaps I’ll be more sensitive to this strain of pre-apocalyptic. I hope it will give me a way to glide across genre. I would enjoy writing historical.  Continue reading


The Autumn 2013 Plan

Speaking strictly commercially, I did everything wrong with my writing. I don’t have an identifiable genre or sub-genre. It’s a literary noir-styled fantasy thriller romance and an allegory about globalization and growing up. There’s no shelf for that. Crossing genres and styles is gaining popularity, but it’s still a hard sell to make cold.

Perhaps I could have written odd short stories and gained a following, but my novel had too strong a pull. And of course I had to write it five times over. And it’s still a big book.

So. There it is. Nothing to do about it now but change course.  Continue reading


2 Comments

Progress Report – Beard Crumbs & Contests

I had vowed that this would be the month I would get back on track; after a winter of “life getting in the way” I have to start sending queries to agents. I am finding ways to avoid that. Or at least that’s one interpretation, that I am fiddling with the novel as a stalling tactic to avoid the big bad commercial world. Another interpretation is that I am listening to the responses I am getting from friends and professionals.

Whatever. Let’s just say I feel there are still crumbs in my beard.

I only received one comment about my idea to move a late passage in the book to the beginning as a sort of prologue, but it came from the excellent and commercially-savvy crime novelist Oliver Tidy which gives it vastly more weight than most, so I’ve done that. We’ll see if it helps.

This also led to my realizing that the whole chapter this passage came from stands alone as a short story, and I thought I might send it out as such. Continue reading