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Thursday, August 18, 2011

When You MUST Write That Story No One Wants...

...well, not exactly the story no one wants. I'm exaggerating a bit. But here's the thing: As the days march past and the publishing industry changes and the rejections and the "I like that idea...but can we try something different?" roll in, and I get up every day at 3 AM to work my mojo, more and more, only ONE THING keeps driving me, pushing me forward, making me write SOMETHING every day, even if it's only three or four pages through tired eyes and a pounding fatigue headache.

And that's the story itself.

Not the certainty of getting it published.

Not a clever marketing or publishing scheme.

Not all my vaunted career plans.

But the spark and fire burning in my belly that THIS STORY MUST BE TOLD. That I MUST know this character's life, inside and out... that I MUST crawl inside this character's head, get to know them, BE them, for just a little while.

Very quickly, that's become all that matters.

And I'm liking the idea more and more. See, it's just too stressful, to anti-productive for me anymore to eye the publishing landscape and make all these grand designs of submitting this project here, this story there, getting an agent, pitching this story, blah blah blah. Which doesn't mean I'm going to STOP doing those things.

But a reordering of my priorities has to happen. I've gotta be in love with the writing, the story, the character (s). If not...

What's the point?

So. I've set my novel aside. I did a lot of work on it, but I'm coming to realize that, for lack of a better still much bigger than my ability to tell right now. It's so layered, so complex (and, complicating matters, I didn't outline it first, so I have 500+ pages to unravel and reshape), that I really need to let it simmer for now.

I've heard tell that it took nearly 13 years for Stephen King to write It (one of my absolute favorite novels of all time, BTW), so maybe that novel will be my "It". I've accepted that, gotten a lot more comfortable with the idea.

Also, my talks with the New York Publishing House agent have reached an impasse. And, to clarify: working with her has been a pleasure. She's been extremely positive, helpful, and the whole experience has been a good one. She felt so confident of my ability, she even forwarded me the emails of four teen fantasy agents, gave me permission to name-drop her. So I'm completely happy with everything that happened there.

But of the story I was pitching her just wasn't matching what they could work with, and at the same time, growing TOO STRONG to ignore. Especially the character. He kept at me, all the time, beckoning me deeper inside his brain. And for me, it's become about two things: the story and the character.

"When I'm working on a project, I definitely need to know my character well. I need to fall in love with them – even if they're the most evil bastard on the planet – in order to really dig in."

Bob Ford, author of the soon to be released Samson & Denial (which you all better pre-order from Thunderstorm Books the minute you can), blogs this morning about developing his title character, Samson Gallows. The above quote comes him, as does below:

"But when he (Samson) truly started to come to life inside my head, he took off in ways I never expected. The muse was in full swing – relating memories of Samson as a child. Things he planned to do in the future. Little secrets he shared with his wife. A million different things that never made it into the novella, but that didn't matter...because every single one of them brought me closer to his voice, his personality, and – not to get too purple here – but the very soul of his character."

And that, my friends, is what it's about, what it MUST be about. That and the story, and the writing itself.

SO. I'm about 100 handwritten pages into the new story - and it's so important to know this character, get inside his head and BE him...because, a lot like Hiram Grange, this story is a little outside my usual curve (you think I could just settle down and write a normal story, right?). It's going to be very different from what I've written, yet, not all that different, at all.

And I usually don't like to talk much about non-published works - because who really cares until it's out there and available, right? - but here's a nice little hint of what I'm working on, for all who care.

And that's all I've got for you, right now. And it's so different (but yet, not) that right now, the most important thing I can do is crawl inside this character's head and be them. So I can understand hopes, dreams, nightmares...and make them come to life, like all the best characters do. 

Thanks Bob, for the reminder.


  1. I know exactly what you mean when you feel like your chops don't live up to your vision. And you keep typing and keep typing, and someday, the jazz happens.

  2. The most important thing you can do is to trust your instinct. It's a hard pill for me to swallow because I like to let others have their say and will work with them on matters.

    Yet it's the end of the day where things truly matter. Can I look face my reflection in the mirror and say I did right by myself? It's a question everyone asks themselves at one time or another.

  3. Heather - I think it was Tony Hines who told me once how many authors have had that "vision" that was just too big to deal with until they got a few other things under their belts first, and that's really what I'm doing here. I'm gonna move on to some other things, try to accomplish some smaller, simpler stuff, then come back to my It later.

    Jeffery - Exactly, and that's essentially the agreement this editor and I came to. A story is always more powerful when it comes from your gut, rather than from a prescription. And I believe you can write almost anything that way, as long as you dig deep enough.

  4. Great food for thought! The evil little Jester and I are always looking to grow as writers. Well, actually the little guy in the Jester box is more my muse, but he does strike the keys now and then, coming up with a twisted tale.
    Thanks Kevin, for the inspiring article!!

  5. No problem, sir! Looking forward to meeting you at AnthoCon!