This hasn’t gone well…
You know that post, the one two posts down, about playing chicken, well, I lost that game. That story petered out… And so did my next promising idea as well. In all these situations, I’d have no problem coming up with the first 30K words. And in each case, I had a series of incidents lined up that promised to carry the story forward. But. But the more I thought about them, the more they did not seem to have the necessary weight, if you will, to drive the story forward. I write episodic novels and you need an overarching story to hold them together. However, the more I thought about these middle episodes, the more they seemed to be just that, episodes that existed only to fill out the middle and carry the story on to a not very consequential end. There are some writers who just write what comes to their head and trust that everything will turn out alright in the end. Perhaps it does. But I hate plot holes, especially my own, so I’m not going to have some character do something just because I need it done. I have to arrange the story so as to allow the character to do what I want done, and this requires planning from the beginning to end. I don’t do extensive outlines, but I do have to have motivations in mind, and I need to place them into the stream of the story from the get-go. All of which means that even though I have solid beginnings, I’m not going put a lot of effort into writing without being fairly certain of a worthwhile payoff. So far, that payoff had eluded me.
As I’ve mentioned before, I’m not under contract, so that I don’t have to mechanically crank out a good-enough story to fulfill a contractual obligation. And since I can’t generate any enthusiasm for these stories, I can hardly expect my readers will either. I do this for fun, and typing away just to get enough words to call it a book isn’t fun.
I don’t think this is classic writers’ block. I can write, I can come up with something like a story, but I just can’t come up with a story that I think is worth writing. I don’t want to rinse and repeat stories. I have my pirates, my bandits, my storms, my romances, and my familiar characters (under different names), and I don’t want to just drag them out, dust them off, and reuse them again without bringing out something new.
There is this term in Taoism, wu wei, which has several subtle meanings, but can use to mean that by doing nothing something gets done, or that by acting only when something can be done, that thing can be done without (much) effort. I’ve decided to apply that principle to my efforts to write. Clearly I'm not at a point where I can write a good story, so I’ll give up trying for now and wait upon some sort of inspiration to seep in when I’m not looking for them.
In the meanwhile, maybe I’ll read some books. I don’t like reading books when there is one in my head that I’m trying to work out, so that by giving up trying to write one, perhaps I can get some reading done. Or maybe I can start painting again. I haven’t been motivated to paint for some time, so perhaps now is the time to try something new, or something old, just to see if my creative juices are still flowing. Humm, might have to wait upon wu wei for that to happen as well...
The long and short of it, however, is that unless lightning strikes, I’m not going to try to come up with a story until after the first of the year. It takes me 5 or 6 months to get a story ready for my proof readers, so that this hiatus does not rule out a book in 2020. But I can’t promise one either. Indeed, I can’t promise another one ever. With more than a million words in print in the last decade, I can’t complain if the well has run dry.
In the mean time, I may use this space to yell at the clouds. That’s what us old men do. For all the good it does.