News Flash: The anthology Fantasy for Good was officially released yesterday. In addition to my short story “Knight’s Errand,” it features a wide variety of both reprint and original stories. All — and I mean every penny — earned by the anthology goes to the Colon Cancer Alliance.
At a loss for what to buy someone for Christmas? Consider doing good on many levels. Your gift recipient will get a great book and you’ll help raise money to find a cure for colon cancer, a disease which robbed our field of both Jay Lake and Roger Zelazny. Seriously… What’s not to like?
And now, back to our regularly scheduled Wander…
Right now – well, not exactly “right now” because I’m writing this – I’m working on a short story to submit to the Shadows and Reflections anthology in honor of Roger Zelazny.
The deadline is the end of the year. This sounded comfortably far off until it suddenly wasn’t far off at all, especially since my mom is coming for Christmas (yay!) and I plan to spend her visit with her and Jim, cooking a wide variety of good things and talking, not hidden in my office struggling to meet a deadline.
(There’s also the possibility that my kitchen is going to get torn up right before Christmas, just to add to the chaos factor.)
So last week I put all my other projects on the side and turned my attention to the projected story. I wanted to set story in one of the two universes that Roger invited me to share with him: that of Donnerjack or that of Lord Demon. Lord Demon won because it would also give me a chance to play around with Chinese material again – something I haven’t had a chance to do since I concluded Five Odd Honors some years ago.
As those of you who read my Friday Fragments may have noticed, I re-read Lord Demon a couple of months back, rather surprising myself when I realized that enough time had gone by that I could read the novel without remembering writing it. It’s a very odd experience to find yourself getting lost in a story you helped to write, but one I completely enjoyed.
While I was planning for this story, I was also getting Wanderings on Writing ready for press. (In case you were on another planet and missed my happy dance and songs of joy, it’s now available as both an e-book and a POD.) And I started re-reading my short fiction for the collection you folks requested. Then the proofs for Artemis Invaded came in… Suddenly, it was late November and my self-imposed somewhat before the end of the year deadline was looming. I resolved to shift my priorities.
I started last week by re-reading the notes I’d written to myself when re-reading Lord Demon. During the last week in November, I read Lafcadio Hearn’s book Some Chinese Ghosts. This gave me some interesting ideas. I decided that I wanted to set this story in Kai Wren’s past – before he became known as Godslayer and Lord Demon. I did some calculations and worked out when this would be on the timeline of Chinese history, so I wouldn’t stumble into anachronism.
By last Wednesday afternoon, I felt as if I had a jigsaw puzzle spread out before me. However, some mischievous imp had stolen the box, so I had no idea if I had all the pieces or even what the picture was. That there was a picture, I felt certain.
I was sitting on the sofa, eyes half-shut, when Jim (who was at home that day) quit work and came out to join me.
“I guess, I think… I can’t seem to get the story started. I feel as if I’m missing some little bit that’s going to make it all fall into place but…”
“Want to talk about it?”
I almost said, “No, thanks,” since most of the time I find it best to keep my ideas under wraps until the words start flowing on the page (or computer screen). This time, probably because I’d been fussing with various elements for months, I decided talking couldn’t hurt. At the very least, I’d find out if Jim thought I needed to research some more.
So I started talking.
Have you ever tried to tell someone about a dream and found yourself unconsciously linking various elements, even though those elements weren’t actually linked in the dream? Dreams were the first stories I ever told, my audience being my younger sister, Ann, who never seemed to tire of these twisted, inconclusive tales.
I had a similar sensation as I started talking to Jim. When the cascade of words ended, he nodded enthusiastically, “I like it. I think you should go with it.”
“Really?” I considered for a moment. “I think that helped. Some of the things I said to you – I hadn’t thought about them that way.”
So the next morning, I started writing. I got more down on Friday. As word count goes, my production wasn’t anything to brag about, but it was a start. Over the weekend, I considered where to go next and came up with a solution for… Well, I won’t go into details. I wouldn’t like the ideas to lose their freshness.
To talk or not to talk about an idea – whether for a short story, a novel, or any other creative venture – is a perennial question among writers. Some swear by these “brainstorming” or “plot-busting” sessions, saying that the combined energy of the participants adds to the writer’s enthusiasm for the project. Others tell cautionary tales about how talking too much can denature a story, robbing it of its freshness, sometimes to the point that the writer no longer feels any desire to write the piece – after all, the story has been told, worked out to the finest detail, so why bother?
I’m curious as to what you think. Usually, I’d come down firmly on the “Don’t talk the idea to death” side, but my recent experience reminded me of the value of giving an idea – especially one that is hesitating to take shape – at least a little outing.