How to Make How to Make a Triffid

For those of you following me on Twitter, this is old news, but on Thursday afternoon the artwork for my upcoming Tor.com story went live on Facebook, and I’m totally and completely in love with it.

Who is that handsome mad man?

The illustration is by the insanely talented Wesley Allsbrook.

It’s surreal to see a piece of art inspired by something that only lived inside my head for such a long time. I was in a haze for days after I sold this story. I kept thinking someone was going to tell me that some mistake had been made, so I was cautious with my excitement. This tempered excitement, and disbelief that it wasn’t really going to independently exist in the world, persisted through the intervening months. Right up until I opened up Facebook on Thursday and found my characters staring back at me.

It feels real now. I mean, there’s my name above a perfectly rendered portrayal of the central theme of the story. Fucking surreal.

I’m excited.

But I’m also terrified. The circumstances around this story’s sale still make me uncomfortable to talk about, because I’m still grappling with the cognitive dissonance from it.

It’s because this story still feels like an aberration for me – born of pain and frustration and grief, the first draft came spilling out into the world as a rant in which I tried to stave off a complete emotional breakdown caused by the ripple effects of a tragedy that echoed at the same resonant frequency of a sadness I had been trying to ignore.

::takes a breath::

I don’t tend to write when I’m that wound up. I tend to shut down. Cry. Watch comfort movies and not to talk to anyone. There’s a reason for it. Raw emotion comes out in a language as jumbled as the thoughts I struggle to understand by writing them down. It took a countless number of drafts to get the story from that initial deluge into what it is now. I thought about it constantly because I knew it had the potential to be a good story. So I began to send it out.

And it got rejected.

So I tore it apart. Added a second character. I put it back together.

And it got rejected.

I tore it apart again. Added an emotional arc for the second character. I put it back together.

And it got rejected.

I tore it apart again. I reframed it as a tryptic to better explore the themes. I put it back together.

And it got rejected.

I wash, rinsed and repeated for four years.

I had to become a better writer to understand how to get the story to work, so I became a better writer with the help of a number of people along the way (this is where I include a shout-out to Erin Stocks, because without her, I might have given up on this one).

I’m terrified not because I don’t think this story has legs, but because I worry about being able to do it again. The stories I’ve written since are all less substantial. I understand that all of them (with the exception of the novel) have been living in my head for a significantly shorter period of time.

But I’m working on it. I learned so much from writing How to Make a Triffid, that I’m now experimenting with how to best approach nascent stories to imbue them with the same depth of emotion I poured into this one.

Today I’m finishing the first draft of new story I started last week. And working on a second draft of another new story. And then fixing some problems with a story that’s already been rejected a few times.

All I can hope is one day these new stories can be as real and true as How to Make a Triffid now is.

I can do this.

Eventually.

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5 Responses to How to Make How to Make a Triffid

  1. Erin Stocks says:

    You’ll do it again, I know it. SO happy to see this come to life!

  2. nicole says:

    I am so stinking excited for this story to come out, and I know you’ll have many more. Your byline sure does look good on the cover art piece.

    • Kelly says:

      Dear god, a BYLINE!! (That’s the excitement part :D)

      But I’m still nervous about the comment section on Tor. And Lois Tilton, of course :)

  3. Pingback: I’ve So Much Past Inside My Present | lagoraphobia

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