The downside to using 750Words for my daily* writing exercise platform is that I don’t always get around to making offline copies of them. And I’ve been using the site for quite a few years, so I’m not entirely sure what I have out there right now.
[* It hasn’t actually been daily for a while now due to other projects and responsibilities that I’ve been working on. But hopefully I can get back into the habit soon enough.]
Last night I read a temporary project I did save was something I’d called The Hurleys. It was an idea in the Mendaihu Universe that took place in the current day instead of far into the future; its central characters were three adult siblings living in midwestern Massachusetts (go with what you know) who are some of the very few who are awakened to the fact that they’re connected to the Mendaihu. I didn’t get too far with it other than maybe five or six entries, but I gave it enough life and detail that it’s something I could possibly expand on.
I know I’ve written quite a few of these over the years I’ve used 750Words. My last three novels all grew out of these. And now I’m curious as to how many others are out there on my account, just waiting to be picked up and expanded upon. Thankfully it’s an easy enough thing to do, as the site keeps everything no matter how old, and I’m the only one who can access it.
Perhaps within the next month or so I’ll take a bit of time and do a deep dive. Maybe I’ll find my next novel idea!
Five more entries to go in 2018, so I thought I’d do a bit of an overview of things I’ve been doing or thinking about over the course of the year, building up to my new writing plans for 2019.
I’ve trunked a lot of my ideas over the years. It’s no big surprise…it’s par for the course for pretty much every writer. I still think about them every now and again, maybe even wondering if they could ever be revived now that I’m a better writer (albeit jokingly — I don’t plan on doing this IRL at all). Depending on when I started them, I pretty much have them collecting dust on a bookshelf or getting forgotten in some folder on my external drive.
When I think of trunked ideas, I think of one of the plot points in Jack London’s Martin Eden, one of the few books assigned to me in school that I truly enjoyed. He’s a writer who can’t seem to get an even break, but once he does, it snowballs to the point where he’s digging out his older work, revising it, and his readers keep eating it up. Thing is, he’s not doing all this for himself; he’s trying to impress a girl. Interestingly, London pulls this idea off by not blaming her disinterest for his downfall, but by having Martin realize he alone is at fault, thinking ‘wow…I really wasted a lot of my life trying to impress everyone and making myself miserable.’
I don’t think I’ve wasted my years with all those failed writing projects. I knew well enough to give up on them when the time came. I realized the most common sign is when the writing feels more like a chore than a project. [Not to be confused with that feeling of failure we writers often get during the revision process — you know, the oh god this sucks why am I still working on it phase. Truth: I’m going through this with In My Blue World as we speak. And yet I still have faith in it, and will see it through to its conclusion.]
Sometimes the ideas are little more than moods or images; they won’t or can’t be expanded into novels, or even short stories. Sometimes the story is a little too uncomfortable to write. Sometimes I get through the main planning stage, or even the first draft, and realize how much of an unsavable mess it is. Regardless of what level I get to it, I’ll have to make a decision: keep moving along with it, or file it away and try something else.
I did a lot of this in 2018. While I released Meet the Lidwells and started work on In My Blue World and the Apartment Complex stories, I had so many other project ideas kicking around that I realized I no longer had any interest in. I decided it was probably time for me to trunk nearly everything else that was still up in the air; I just did not feel connected to them anymore. I’d still feel a “hey this might be fun” wave of interest, but that’s all. And I can’t base an entire project on that.
I think part of it was also completing the Apartment Complex story. That novel is…different. Very different from a lot of what I’ve written in the past. Even the current past. It resonated with me in a way that none of my previous novels ever did, even the trilogy. It felt like a gigantic step forward, and a step away from the work I’ve done in the past. It felt that this was the direction I needed to go in next, and almost none of my backburner projects fit that mold.
In short, I felt I was closing down one part of my life and writing career, and moving on to a newer, better one. I had to leave the old stories behind.
I’m looking forward to 2019 being part of that newer, better life and career. And I’m definitely looking forward to the newer stories, whatever they may be.
Not only do I have a Secret Next Project that I’ll be working on once Meet the Lidwells is finished and released, but I have *another* story — set in the same universe as the SNP, but not related — that I’ve deemed Secret Future Project.
This SFP will be set in a Pioneer Valley-like setting. [For those unfamiliar with the PV, that’s a corridor in midwestern Massachusetts known for containing five colleges (UMass, Amherst, Smith, Holyoke and Hampshire) and thus having quite a sleepy collegiate town feel to it. I grew up thirty miles to the northeast of it, and it’s one of my favorite places in the world. For those familiar with the PV, I can hear y’all from here yelling at me to stop talking about it so damn much. Heh.]
ANYWAY. I’ve been wanting to write a story set in this kind of place for decades, and I think I’ve found the one thing to write.
The only downside is that I think I’m a little behind the times in terms of my knowledge of stories set on college campuses. When I think of college stories, unfortunately my mind either goes to John Knowles’ A Separate Peace, F Scott Fitzgerald’s This Side of Paradise, or JD Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye. I’ve read a lot of stories that are more recent, and numerous webcomics as well (a few like Agents of the Realm, Check Please!, and Questionable Content come to mind). Movies? Well, aside from the boomer stories like The Big Chill and The Return of the Secaucus 7, and Gen-X stories like St Elmo’s Fire and all those drunken-frat-bro movies, I’m still searching for more ideas.
SO! I’m curious: what are your favorite stories that revolve about college life? It can be any style, format, or genre. I’m definitely open to all kinds of stories, including LGBT/PoC-centric stories; I’m looking to come up with some unique characters, so everyone’s invited. I’d like to get more of a recent feel of what college is all about nowadays, and I think I need to do more than just listen to the college radio stations that I already listen to.
Coming up with ideas really isn’t all that hard. It’s the latching onto one, getting it to germinate, that’s the hard part. I’ve got to have some connection to it, otherwise it’s just a single scene that doesn’t belong anywhere. And I’ve got an old trunk full of those already.
Sometimes those ideas take a hell of a long time to germinate, and that can either be a good thing or a bad thing, depending on how you look at it. Meet the Lidwells! came to me nearly two years ago, and I’m only working on it now. That was primarily due to the trilogy project taking precedence, but I also wanted to give it a good planning-in-my-head before moving forward with it.
I’ve got a few backburner projects as well, ones that have been simmering for quite a few years. Those are ideas with merit but I wasn’t ready to work on them just yet for one reason or another. I’ve got a few new and fresh ideas as well, ones that I may play around with via 750 Words (like I did with Lidwells) until something concrete comes about.
Is it frustrating, having these stories in various points of stasis? Well, yeah, of course it is! But I’d like to think I’ve gotten to the point where I no longer feel like I MUST WRITE ALL THE BOOKS RIGHT NOW. Once I cleared the table of the Trilogy Project, I found it…actually pretty empty. I’d trunked numerous story ideas over the past fifteen years; ideas that didn’t work, that I’d lost interest in, or just led nowhere. Others I’d turned into blog series. I had maybe three or four Possible Next Projects, tops.
Which also meant that I could afford to come up with a few new possible seeds of ideas that I could nurture down the road. I could let myself play around with the tiniest inklings that passed by. I have to relish when that happens now, because I haven’t had that feeling in a long time. Writers love coming up with scraps and seeing where they go.
It feels great to be fully creating again after years of editing and revision work. It feels even better to let my brain come up with these seeds of ideas and know that I won’t have to wait for ages to get to them.
I know I’m not the only writer who comes up with more ideas than they can possibly work with. Just today I’ve seen at least three Tweets from published writers opining on ideas they would love to work on, but alas time is short and other projects loom. These possible ideas may never come to light. And the thought of orphaned ideas kills us every time.
This popped into my mind the other day while I was doing some playing around with a possible future project. I use my daily practice words as a Word Playground just to give my brain a stretch (and to prime the pump, if need be). I had a peculiar waking dream the other morning that I was part of a musical family band — sort of like the Osmonds, only set in the 80s-90s — and thought I’d riff on that. The practice words turned into a ‘Where Are They Now?’ story, in which each member would tell the same part of their shared history, only their views were vastly different. The words came quick and easy, as did the separate character voices.
So, you’re asking. When the hell are you going to get around to writing that, when you’ve already got a bajillion other things going on? That is a very good question. I may get to it, I may not. I really don’t know. Does that bother me? It used to in the past, a bit. But since I’ve been writing for most of my adult life and have worked on a large number of projects over the years that have seen various states of completion, I’m not too worried about it.
It also got me thinking–what about the ideas I like, that I may not ever get around to working on? The ones that sing to me, but not enough for them to take precedence? Are they going to languish in my PC and Dropbox folders and on various scraps of paper, gathering dust until the end of time? I’m not talking about my trunked ideas and novels, the ones I know aren’t going anywhere anytime soon…I’m talking about the Word Playground ideas, the ideas that have merit and have been plotted out to some extent.
I had this crazy idea that, if I was going to sign off on an idea I knew I’d never get to, why let it die in my own imagination? Why not let someone borrow it? And then I started thinking about it more: what if I created these miniature worlds, laid the barest of rules and outlines, and shared them with other writers? It made sense in an odd way–there are countless fanfic writers out there who love coming up with their own stories based in someone else’s created world. Why not donate these orphaned ideas to someone who’ll give them more love than I could?
Of course reality always sneaks in on crazy ideas like this, bringing me back to earth. I wouldn’t be making a dime. I probably wouldn’t even be getting credit. I’d be building the framework, but the creator would change it into something not even remotely me. And so on.
Sure, it’s a wacky batshit idea that I probably should not entertain, especially at my point in my publishing career (read: yeah, yeah, I’ll get a book out eventually). Still…it’s a thought I’ll keep in the back of my mind anyway, just so I don’t feel too guilty about all those story ideas I have that’ll never get written.