Thursday, 9 December 2010

Failure

You’d be amazed what rubbish I’ve been churning out for the last few days.  I currently have… 102 story ideas and I can’t find one I actually want to write. 

I’m flitting through the In Progress folder, hoping for inspiration.  There’s one file here titled ‘Pirates steal Christmas’ so I opened it up to see what I’d got.  That’s it.  That’s my idea.  I have three words.  What am I supposed to do with that?  Why did I even bother writing that into a Word file?

So far, I’ve had a go at two post-apocalyptic dystopias and a superhero story.  I don’t know why I have two dystopias.  I don’t enjoy the genre.  Although that may explain a desire to write one I would enjoy.  I think I’m having the same trouble with all three ideas.  They are set in worlds that are completely different to this one and I don’t know how to handle that. 

In Working Title: Rigor Morris, the novel I’m trying to get published, there are spirits and even zombies, but these aren’t the norm.  Only the main character, the medium, sees the world differently.  Everyone else is us.  So they react naturally.  And I can write one character who is different, because that’s where the story comes from.  But what if it was the norm?  I don’t think I’d know where to begin with an out-and-out fantasy story. 

I generally write about the real world, just from a slightly tilted point of view.  Even in Working Title: Evelynland, my children’s story, although the main character ends up in a fantasy story, she’s still from the real world, so again reacts to it as a real person would.  And even then, I’m struggling with it.

I wish I could handle entire fictional worlds.  I want to overcome this fault.  But I don’t know how.  Somehow it drains my authorial voice and style and it all becomes rather bland, because I’m drowning in all this dumb set up.  In fact, now I think about it, I’ve noticed other (unpublished) writers of fantasy or science fiction have a weakened narrative tone.  Perhaps they suffer this trouble too. 

At least I’ve noticed my problem.  I’m sure practice will help, but it’s hard to get involved in a story that even I can tell is dry.  Besides, on the post-apocalyptic side of things, that’s hardly a very cheery atmosphere, and I tend to write quite sardonically, which doesn’t seem appropriate when people are dying.  Bums.

Another theory could be that all three stories I have failed to get into came from ideas I had pre-epiphany.  The Epiphany happened at the start of 2005.  That was when I realised who I was and how to write.  Everything before that was pointless preamble.  Yeah, this theory makes me feel less stupid than the one above.  It’s not me at fault, it’s just the old-me hanging around and clunking up the narrative. 

What we have here is Working Title: The Silencers, which was originally inspired by a scary dream I had as a teenager.  See, I knew I’d had a useful dream…  There are a lot of characters, which is one problem.  And I’ve been trawling through random (terrible) scenes to try to work out what the actual plot is supposed to be.  Definitely one of those start from scratch affairs.  But then, is this story interesting enough to even bother with?  I’m not sure it is.

The other dystopia is Working Title: Afterwards, and came to me one day in the first year of university, when I arrived at the train station after Christmas to find no one waiting for me.  I carried my belongings all the way up the hill to the hall of residence.  No one was in.  So obviously, I pretended everyone in the village/uni was dead and that I was on the run.  It's also partly inspired by a dream, which I may have had later; I was walking into work and I passed a man, some higher up, and I turned back and caught his eye, and I knew he wasn't human any more.  But all I have for that is a lot of big ideas, and I’m not a big idea person.  I write detailed characters who snipe at each other, a lot.  I don’t write revolutions.

Then Working Title: Super Complex, the superhero story, has a plot, but the characters are all a bit bland.  And what the hell do I know about action heroes?  And why would anyone want to read what is a primarily visual medium?

No, I’m forcing myself to write these.  I need to find something I can just slip into and I’m beginning to panic.  What good are 102 pointless ideas I can’t handle?  I’ve written six mss, please don’t tell me that’s all I have in me. 

Oh, third theory.  The same as theory 1, except perhaps it’s not that I can’t handle an entire fictional world where I set down the ground rules but that I lack the confidence to believe other people would put up with it. 

You have to really invest in a fantastical story and trust the author, and I can just imagine The Housemate reading one paragraph and giving up with a “Huh, what?  Why?”  That’s what happened when he read Philip Pullman’s Northern Lights.  And I respect The Housemate’s opinions.  Well…  I respect his writing anyway, and that’s near enough the same thing.

But then, maybe I’m still feeling bruised from some recent negative feedback I received on what I considered to be good writing (Working Title: Rigor Morris).  I like criticism in the long term, but this wasn’t helpful, it was just ignorant (offensively racist even).  

I’m a terribly pompous person and I know I’m a good writer.  There was The Epiphany after all, and then the 1st at uni.  I can’t fail at the only thing that ever felt right.  So I won’t.

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