Monday, February 08, 2010

Quelling the Voices

Used to be, I thought I only had one or two stories in me. That once I wrote them down, I'd be done, and could go back to mindlessly watching reality TV whilst eating Cheetos and drinking Coke Zero. Because, you know...that's what you do. (Okay, that might not be what you (would) do, but I don't drink alcohol, so Coke Zero's about as strong as it's going to get.)

I thought that eventually, the voices in my head (read: stories trying to get out, not schizophrenia; as yet the voices have never told me to kill anyone except my characters) would shut the hell up and leave me alone.

But that turns out not to be the case at all. Au contraire, chers lecteurs!

That turns out to be the farthest thing possible from 'the case.'

I recently wrote my 2010 Writing Goals in the form of a short story. I use "short" here in the sense of "not a novelette, novella, or novel." Sucker came out to 7000 words. Or so.

First, I went into the Place I Keep All My Writing™ and looked over all the stories and fragments thereof.

Then, in the goals story, I wake up to find all my characters from all my other stories have come to life and are inhabiting my house, with the implication being that they aren't going anywhere until I get rid of them by finishing (and submitting) their stories. Between the tentacled alien in the shower, Death (incarnate!) in the closet, three time machines, several vampires, some angels, a murderer, and a few assorted fantasy creatures (I banished the centaur and faun to the back yard; the hooves were wreaking havoc on my hardwood floors), it was rather a full house.

I have three novels knocking on the inside of my head wanting to come out. One of those is clearly the first of a trilogy, and it has been knocking for some 20 years. Or more. I think the first seeds of it appeared in a horribly Mary Sue story I wrote when I was eleven. Yes, eleven.

The other two are the first two in a Dresden Files-esque series.

In a "sanity break" at work, I was just going through the application where I jot down story notes and ideas as they occur to me during the day and discovered ideas for at least two more novels in that series (Get a load of me, talking about a novel series and I haven't even finished one of them, yet!), and that didn't even go back past November of 2009.

In the goals story, I identified no fewer than 14 short stories in some form of completion and the three aforementioned novels. Those short stories range from ~1200 words to whoppers of nearly 20,000. Which is a novella, not a short story. (Over the years, my "short" stories have developed pituitary problems.)

And the funny part is, I managed to miss a few. I totally lost three novellas each of which I had written a good bit of. (Diagram that Grammar Nazis!) Can't find 'em. Gone. Zip. Whoosh. Into the æthyr. (That's writer talk for "it ain't nowhere.")

I guess the good news is this:
  • I won't run out of ideas any time in the next 70 or 80 millennia.
  • I am getting better as a writer; I can tell by looking over some of those early stories that...basically, I sucked as a writer.
  • I'm in no danger of becoming hooked on reality TV or Cheetos. (Coke Zero is already a lost cause.)

Unfortunately, the bad news is that
  • There are so many stories fighting to get out, I don't have time to work on them all.
  • Any time I get the least bit bored or stuck with a story, I put it on ice and work on something else. Which is what got me into this situation in the first place.

But as far as real goals go, I made one. Or some. Depending on your viewpoint.

There are two writers workshops this year that sound like something I would really enjoy. One is called Taos Toolbox and the other is Viable Paradise. TT is two weeks in the desert in the summer; VP is one week on Martha's Vineyard in the fall. I would be thrilled—THUH-RILLED—to be accepted to either one of them. Both have good instructors and involve a lot of intensive writing.

Toward that end, I'm working on the finished story that I think stands the best chance of getting me into one of them. The story was fully written and critiqued by my weekly writers group. I just never went back to it because in my mind, I was done with it. But after that goals story, I just couldn't get the characters out of my head.

It's a pure science fiction story with (what I hope is) an odd twist at the end. It involves time travel. I got it all edited and was done with the thing, then uploaded it to another writers group so they could critique it...and then read it again and noticed at least two plot holes large enough to drive Jupiter through. And at least three of its innermost moons. Without touching.

Unfortunately, said story is 11,500 words, and the limit for both TT and VP is 10,000. Hmmm. I smell editing in my near future.

I've already said a lot of this on both LiveJournal and FaceBook, but I thought it bore repeating. Because if I keep talking about it, I'm more likely to follow through.

Also, the deadline for the quarterly Writers and Illustrators of the Future contest is rapidly approaching (51 days, I believe), and that's another potential submission destination for Killing Time (yes, the title blows goats).

So...I'm going to try to keep this more up-to-date as a "writing journal." We'll see how I do. :)

[Crossposted to my new site.]

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