Thursday, 9 December 2010

The Three Folders

 
Once upon a time, there were three little folders of stories. 

The first was called Complete and had a few scant offerings, which were the stories The Writer was supposed to be trying to get published, although they were never truly complete and The Writer found lots to edit on every read. 

The second was called To Read and had a nice list of stories The Writer had finished a full draft of and needed a breather before going at them with the shears, or even that The Writer was currently convincing a little writing circle to critique. 

And the third was called In Progress and was full to the seams with the sorry lots of vague ideas and openings The Writer had never given the time to fill out. 

But today was a special day, and the third folder would finally get its chance to offer something worthwhile to The Writer.

It’s always tough picking a new project.  When I finished university, I knew exactly what I wanted to be the debut novel.  It was about a pair of con artists (Working Title: The Road To Confidence).  But it was episodic and immature and just a mess.  So I gave it a rest and wrote a comic fantasy novel (Working Title: Rigor Morris) about a medium and a mortician instead.  That’s the one for which I’m currently trying to get an agent. 

I went back to Working Title: The Road To Confidence, stripped it apart, rewrote it and completely lost what I ever loved about it in the first place.  But somewhere deep in my heart, there was something I wanted to try out. 

So then, I wrote a story that follows the year before and the year after a failed marriage (Working Title: The Unadulteress) .  That’s currently doing the circuit among the Trusted Advisors so I can find a way to make it work.  Trouble there perhaps is the people I trust to critique my work are all men.  And a book about a failed marriage probably isn’t going to appear on their reading lists.  I’ve always had this problem. 

Then I rewrote one of my third year uni projects, a children’s story about a girl who gets trapped in a fantasy story and sides with the baddie (Working Title: Evelynland).  I like that idea far more than I know how to write it.  Rewritten the thing at least four times and it never works. 

A year or two ago I started writing about the dork (Working Title: Donald Benton: Superdork).  I have this character, a dork funnily enough, and I tried him out in a few short stories, but they just didn’t work.  And then finally I settled on one and actually let him narrate it and it worked (although it didn’t win the Bridport Prize, humph).  I enjoyed it so much, I wrote a sequel.  And another.  Soon I had eight or so stories.  In fact, I liked this character so much, I wanted to write a whole book of him.  So I’ve given that a go.  But it’s very rough.  I’ve added in these fantastical delusions of grandeur, but they don’t really tie in properly.  And then there’s the ending.  It either ends sadly, or I carry it on to the happy resolution, which is about three years later.  Neither way is working. 

Oh, and at the start of this year I wrote a comedy detective story featuring a character that’s the con artist, loan shark, card sharp PI I always wanted to be when I was five (Working Title: The Shovel, PI).  What I’d really like to do is write a series with The Housemate.  Maybe alternate, each book being from the point of view of these rival PIs.  But that’s a long-term plan, and he doesn’t have the time to focus on it right now.  This drives me crazy, because I’d love to knock out a string of Working Title: The Shovel PI novellas. 

And then I finally went back to my dearly beloved Working Title: The Road To Confidence.  What I had secretly wanted to do was set it in the Home Front.  So I read lots and lots of books about WWII.  And now I have my first draft of the new improved pair of con artists in WWII story.  I need to do more research. 

That’s one completed novel, five novels that with a bit more work could be ready to send off, and quite a few short stories (trouble there being I can’t currently afford submission fees for comps and mags).

That’s good I think for four and a half years work.  Perhaps I should spend less time on the imagination and actually market the damn things and get them made in the real world for real people to read.  You’d think.

But now I must pick the next novel project.  And I just can’t settle.  I’ve picked at a few ideas but get listless quickly.  Nothing is gelling right now.  It’s always like this.  Then one day I wake up with an urge and I just have to write one.  But I’ve not had it yet.  It’s an irritating limbo to be left in, not knowing what will be the focus for the next three months or so.

A couple of days ago I wrote a short story (30pp) about how a good teacher can affect your life.  It probably doesn’t mean that much to the teacher, but to the student, it can just change the way you see everything.  And I thought maybe I’d like to give a young adult novel a go.  But I’d have to base some of it on my own experiences, and much like as an adult, I never did anything as a teenager.  Hardly gripping drama. 

And I don’t know how typical I was.  I was nauseating, but I was never into what everyone else seemed to be into.  For example, everyone watched Buffy The Vampire Slayer.  I not only grew out of it after one year, but of all the characters to fancy, I fancied the middle-aged librarian.  Sure, Anthony Head is generally considered to be sexy, but not in that and not to sixteen-year-olds.  You’re supposed to fancy Angel.  Of course, I do now; he’s just like a puppy.  But that’s no good. 

What I’m wondering is if I can ask the people who were around a lot and influential in The Life at that time if they can relate vague memories, detailed anecdotes, or the greatest goldmine of all, actually lend me their teen diaries. 

That would be a fantastic research tool, especially if I could compare it to my own ramblings of the time and get different viewpoints on the same situation.  But is anyone going to let me do that?  A ten-year-old diary can’t be that meaningful, can it?  It might be healthy to share.  No one still thinks the stuff they thought when they were teenagers, right? 

I just don’t know if I have the guts to have the audacity to ask.  Because I don’t want the answer to be no.  And to make it even harder, I don’t talk to most of those people any more.  How’s that going to look, a message out of the blue, ‘hey I know we haven’t talked in years, but can I read your diary?’  Hmm, maybe this isn’t the project for now. 



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