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Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Something New

I talked last time about starting out a new project with an ensemble cast, each person with an unusual skill. I had a whisper of an idea about each of four people, their milieu, the shape of stories they could tell. To accomplish anything they need a leader, and I decided which one that would be.

I diddled a bit with the world. Thought up some ideas of how the story would run. Talked with my muse, Linda, over a very long lunch about how the story might get going. Wrote a page of notes and watched a DVD series from the History Channel that pertained to my chosen time period. I even had an idea for an opening scene.

All of this was good--but every time I sat down to look at it, the project became more daunting. After creating five distinct worlds over the course of fifteen books, the notion of starting over from scratch appeared bigger than Trump's ridiculous wall on the Mexican border. Not only did I need to come up with cool ideas, I had to stay out of my own way. Surely I hadn't included every favorite bit of world structure/custom/myth or character foible/skill/hangup that I love!

Certainly not, but still I couldn't get going even to write that first scene. Panic time. And then I went to Vancouver Island...

Now I adore writing retreats at my friend Brenda's house overlooking the Saanich Inlet almost as much as I love retreating to a certain funky little retreat hotel in the heart of the Rockies. Being away from home and its myriad distractions helps me focus. And somehow being surrounded with awe-inspiring beauty provides extra fodder for words. Certainly the energy of other serious writer friends working hard gives me energy. But it was Brenda herself who said about five words that broke the dam. She is a generous listener, and when I started running on about the backstory of my lead, she stopped me.

"Why don't you write that story?" she said. "If it works out, it could be a short story to accompany the novel. If you decide not to write the novel, you'll not have spent so much time and effort on it."

Perfect sense. Seven thousand words appeared over the next few days...like magic.

Now you who have talked about character interviews all these years can laugh at me. Yet this is truly a story, not interview notes.  (Though one could say, Romy is interviewing for a job.) And those who tell me that writing short fiction can be less intimidating that starting a novel...I give you points, too. Old dogs can learn new tricks.

For now I am continuing to write a bit of story that might never appear in a novel, but is a delight for me anyway. We'll see how things pan out.

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