a beginning

It is a truth universally acknowledged among creative writers that you should tell your story once, and you should do it in writing. The corollary is that if you discuss your story idea with others you might somehow dissipate the urge to tell it further, thus losing the drive or momentum or mojo or whatever to do the truly hard work of writing the damned thing. And so I make this post with trepidation.

I’ve begun work on a new, big project. I’d mentioned before that I’ve been flailing, looking around for the next inspiration to take hold, and I think it may have happened. The short story I talk about writing in that earlier post is finished and even submitted. It’s a little fun-and-games type piece, but my mind would not let it go after I “finished” it, and I began imagining how the story could actually take place in the real world. And the more I imagined it, the more things came to me. Solutions, settings, characters, conflicts, even motivations (which are key).

So now I’ve begun work on a novel of the story. I realize the inherent challenge (or perhaps incipient failure?) in trying to flesh out something like a 1,900 word short story into a full-blown novel (or perhaps novella, which actually works well for what I have in mind).

Yesterday, on the first full day of winter, I rose at my accustomed and unholy hour and began work on the novel. By the end of my session I had finished a first draft of a first chapter, with nearly as many words as the origin short story has.

So very much is going on in this story — obscure references and oblique foreshadowing, reliable and unreliable narration, characters with more depth than seems apparent, feints and deceits, plotting within plotting, early preparation and final payoff, even some metafiction maneuvering — that I constantly doubt my ability to do it well enuf. But that’s always been the case for me.

It has been a long time since I have written an actual novel. “But what of One-Match Fire?, you say.” Well, that began as a single short story, which was another one I couldn’t let go of after I’d “finished” it, and several related but independent stories grew from it. I was well along this road before I realized that what I was accumulating was a novel in stories. Even so, it felt like just writing a whole bunch of short stories that benefited from having the same characters, setting, and theme. That there was an arc in it was a late and nice revelation.

Not so with this work (which I have a tentative title for, but it’s only a placeholder for now — I’ll probably seek counsel from my favorite poet for a title to this one too). This is a much longer and more perilous road. I think I know my destination, and a few of the big stops along the way, and even some of the people I’ll meet, but beyond that I’m traveling blind, and I’ll only discover a lot of the tale as I tell it. Also, at this point I don’t see the need to travel to Belgium to do more research.

But it feels good, feeling inspired again. I hope to ride this wave (and a couple of other metaphors as I think of them)!

Explore posts in the same categories: Humble efforts, Ouroboros

3 Comments on “a beginning”

  1. pete29anderson Says:

    Great news, Paul. I’m glad you’ve discovered something fresh and new. Writing my Christmas Eve story has re-invigorated me as well. I’ve already discovered one character that I want to get to know better, and write more about beyond this story.

  2. Paul Lamb Says:

    Pete, congrats on your re-invigoration too. I wondered if your serial experiment was leading to something.

  3. markparis Says:

    When i was a newspaper reporter way back in the 1970’s, I would take notes at whatever thing I was covering, whether it was a county commission meeting or some kind of human interest interview. When I got back to the office, I seldom had to consult my notes. I just sat down and wrote my story. If it had been lost (we used a primitive computer terminal connected to a fancy big computer in the back) I’m not sure I could have rewritten It. It was as if the story was in my head, flowed down my arms into my fingers as I typed, and then was gone. After I finished, the only place it existed was in my written story.


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