For the last several weeks, I've wanted to sit down and write out every half-baked story idea nudging around in my mind. I wanted it to be all-inclusive; even if it's just a single, creative burst that popped into my head during an episode of Spongebob (don't judge), or a single character, a single quote, a single conflict. You get the picture.
Yesterday, I went home early because it felt like someone was stabbing me in the hip with a fork. I've had hip issues for as long as I can remember, and after two trips to the chiropractor, I was sore and my hip still hurt.
So home I went, and I collapsed in bed with a Tylenol and the beginnings of a sinus headache. I napped on and off for an hour or so, and when I woke up I realized something: for the first time in forever, the house was completely silent. No TV, no Pandora radio, no train, nothing. Even the Danes were being quiet, with Sunni passed out on the floor and Duke belly-up on the bed next to me. And that's when it hit me. I could write my story list, without Hub or work to distract me.
I grabbed my laptop and opened up a new file, and I started writing out every story idea I could remember, no matter how small they were. I wrote out the basic plot for N2N, and then another story inspired by time travel, and then the fledgeling idea that popped in my head the other morning. I even put the story ideas that I've literally had since I was in my teens. If there was a blank spot in the plot, I just made something up on the fly and made a note of it.
When it was all said and done, I had a dozen smallish ideas and five or six semi-meaty stories on the document in front of me, and I was surprised at the variety. There was the urban fantasy of N2N, a futuristic story heavily influenced by the large doses of sci-fi I devoured during my teens, a fantasy set in another world entirely. No two were alike.
Having them laid out in front of me like that helped me look at them more objectively than I've been able to in the past. I could see the specific strengths and weaknesses of each of them. Some of them had a lot more potential than others. Some of them were downright silly.
To get even more feedback, I handed my laptop to Hub and told him to pick out any of the ideas that he would willingly pull off the shelf and read.
(Let me de-rail right here for just a second and say how much I love Hub for all the feedback he gives me. Not only does he give me awesome constructive criticism, but he catches 99% of the typos I miss because he's such a meticulous guy. He was not a reader when I met him, but now we're both hard-core bookworms and I'd be lost without him. )
Not surprisingly, Hub passed up N2N in favor of the futuristic story and the hard-core fantasy. He said both of them jumped out at him because they were unique. When I asked him if he thought I should shelve N2N, or at least bump it back in line, he said he thought the two stories he'd picked out had a lot more potential, at least right now. I hated to admit it, but I agreed with him. I've been avoiding N2N because the more I work on it, the weaker it gets. The point of view bothers me, some of the plot progression bothers me, and on and on and on. And I hide my discomfort by saying "Oh, I'm taking a break from it! I'll stop thinking about it and then I'll get back on it in two weeks and be fresh and ready to tackle it!" But then when I open it up two weeks later I'm right back where I started, irritated at myself because parts of the story just don't work.
Changing gears will be painful, because I'm more than 100 pages into N2N, and the two stories Hub thinks I should focus on are so very different from it. They'll both require loads of world building, and I'll be right back where I started with creating the characters, with figuring out action pacing, with working out the tiny plot details. I'll be back on page one.
Here's the thing, though: I LOVE worldbuilding, and the character development stage of planning is one of my favorite pieces of the entire writing process. That part always goes the fastest, because it's the part I most enjoy.
So am I disappointed that N2N is shelved? Yeah, I'm pretty bummed. It's hard not to spend eight months of your life on a story that you realize is going nowhere. But one of the things I'm most grateful for is my imagination, and how it always leaps to the rescue when I think that I'll never, ever come up with anything readable.
I'll do some things different this time. I'm still learning about this crazy creative process, even though I've been telling stories since I first learned to write. And I'll keep doing it until I finally get it right. :)