Archive for the ‘Greater’ category

Greater and greater

May 17, 2011

I’ve mentioned one or twice on this humble blog that I have a novel idea that I’m giving the code name “Greater.” I think it will be my “big work.” Certainly it will be my most serious, most ambitious work. But despite knowing a general plot and theme, I struggle with its too many points of view, and I haven’t been able to come up with an effective way to tell the story.

I think that changed last week. Following on yesterday’s post about insights, I had such a flash last week about Greater. I understood how I could tell the various components of the story in an effective way. (Thank you, Julian Barnes!)

For me, this is good news. I think it means that I’ll begin to see all sorts of useful developments come pouring into my little head. I’ll know how to slot the ideas that will come, and even having a vehicle for organizing and presenting them may even cause me to have the ideas.

I realize all of this sounds cryptic and confusing; I’m only a few steps ahead of you myself in terms of this effort. Just trust me that this is a good thing.

I’ve said here before that I’m wary of knowing too much about my creative process. I fear that if I am analytic about it I’ll kill the creative portion of it. (It’s why I could never be an engineer or an accountant.) Nonetheless, I can see how the mechanism worked in this case, and I’m grateful that it did.

Servant of four masters

June 24, 2008

When I stopped to consider all of the fiction ideas that dominate my thoughts, I realized that I am devoting a considerable amount of mental effort to four different genres of fiction: four very different types of creation.

I am currently working on a new novel, which has the working title of The Sleep of Reason. I’d say it falls in the suspense/horror genre, though there is no supernatural and there is no real crime either. Of course this one gets most of my attention.

Yet I still find my thoughts straying toward other writing ideas. I continue to make copious notes for the four Finnegan cozy mystery novels I intend to write, and I delve into the three I have written to make little adjustments here and there.

Then there is the speculative fiction novel that has me all giddy with anticipation. I’m still a long way from being ready to begin writing it, but I make notes and am doing a bit of research. The Underground Railroad is a sort of supporting theme to the story as I currently envision it, and I’m studying that bit of U.S. history to see what creative sparks it may offer.

Finally, and most recently, I’ve been making notes on a noir novel with a (I think) clever twist. My son suggested the idea, and it must have been a good one because I have continued to think about it ever since. I’ve never read anything in this genre, nor in the rather large subgenre that the twist comes from, so I have a lot of education ahead of me there too.

I don’t think this is diluting my work on The Sleep of Reason. I think I am successful at compartmentalizing all of it. And even if I weren’t, I can’t imagine not indulging my creative whims on these tangents.

I frequently read of writers who are blocked, who don’t know the next step in their story. I think I am fortunate that this has not happened to me. It looks like I’ll have plenty to write about for the next decade.

Good idea in search of a plot

March 6, 2008

Many of my stories begin as pretty good ideas that don’t have a plot. My job, of course, is to come up with a plot that can incorporate these ideas.

Finnegans Festive was this way. The revelation of the mystery began long ago as an idea that was sparked by a non-fiction book I was reading about the Mississippi River. I first tried to make a short story out of it, but I wasn’t satisfied with the result. Much later, when I was ready to write my second Finnegans story, this idea came back. I fleshed it out. And now it works pretty darn well as a novel.

Finnegans Fogbound (as yet unwritten) started with no more than a setting in mind. Slowly the idea gelled in my head, and a complex story has since developed in my notes. About the only thing left of the original idea is the title, and even that probably will have to go since I don’t plan to use the setting now. (At least not for that novel.)

The next novel I will write, Sleep of Reason, began in a similar way. It was an interesting, slightly off-kilter idea that I liked, but there wasn’t really a story to it. It was more of a vignette. The idea languished around in my file of misfires for a long time until the way to develop it into a story just popped into my head. (I suspect I had been pondering it on some unconscious level, but I don’t think it is prudent to understand creativity too much. I think it can then stifle creativity.) The story idea has since undergone a number of revisions and developments, and I think I have a substantive, psychological, and slightly off-kilter novel idea fleshed out.

Another story idea has been knocking about in my head for the last year or so. It started as a sort of mind experiment — one of those questions you ask yourself not to get the right answer but to see just what you would answer. I’m reluctant to say much about the genesis of this idea, but it came from a question about self sacrifice. How much would you be willing to give up to help another? And why are some people more willing than others to do so? That is fertile ground for ideas, but I didn’t really have a plot to weave those ideas into. Today, though, I think I may have stumbled upon it. I made a lot of notes on scraps of paper, and later I will transcribe them in my journal. I have many pages of notes for this idea there, and I’m getting to the point where I should begin to get them into my word processor so I can start massaging them better.

I realized today that I have more writing ideas than I can possibly complete, even if I had all the free time I could want. I can’t write it all, but I can write some of it.


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