I wonder how many stories I would have written by now if I weren’t waiting for them to be “ready.”
Somewhere along the way I came to the notion that I needed to have a story fully imagined in my head before I started writing it. And it’s true that I made an embarrassing number of false starts with stories — really just ideas, images, characterizations — that didn’t have legs, so to speak. My hard drive is littered with the corpses of these failed attempts.
Still . . . I’m not sure this is a fruitful stance. My hard drive is also filled with “notes” for stories that I may never write as I wait for them to be fully imagined in my head. Lately I’ve found that if I just push my way past this imagined barrier, I tend to produce the core of something worthwhile.
I come to this realization because I am reflecting a great deal on how different it has been working on my WIP, Larger than Life, compared to the completed-and-being-shopped-around The Sleep of Reason. The latter wrote itself. There were many times when I felt the story was being revealed to me and that I just had to keep up putting it in writing. Larger than Life, on the other hand, is only coming grudgingly from that murky creative part of my brain. Every writing session is a chore, a voyage of uncertainty, and yet each time I am pleased with what I have done.
The fullness of the story is percolating in my head. Hardly a day goes by now when I don’t have some realization or insight about it, some really substantive understanding of the characters’ relationships or the implications of an act (or the foreshadowing for the act). The writing isn’t getting any easier, but the connectedness of it all is growing more clear by the day.
And I think this is happening, in part, because I am forging ahead with the writing even though I know the story is not “fully imagined.” I think the act of forcing it forward is compelling me to achieve these insights and understandings. If so, then this has been a valuable lesson to learn.
It makes me think that I should take up some of those short story ideas I have floating around and pushing my way to getting the core of something about them written as well. (In fact, my recent success with the story “Diaspora” resulted from something much like this.) Now it’s just a matter of stealing the time to do it from the myriad of other things that need doing.