So I was chatting with Jane Lindskold on Facebook Messenger, and the subject of finishing a project came up again—she’s suggested this before. She finishes books, and has published some of my favorite works. I finish and revise drafts—now up to nine unpublished books—and get distracted by new story ideas. She told me, “The hot new idea is easy to get caught up in until it becomes yet another unfinished project.” (Update: She wrote a piece the next day that you can find here: https://janelindskold.wordpress.com/2016/09/21/white-hot-ideas/ She commented on my post of it that this piece was “Really a vivid illustration of exactly what I was trying to explain…”)
I believed her. I just thought I was made of stronger stuff. I thought to myself, I won’t let my current project go! Sen of the Woods is too important to me.
I didn’t quite have it in perspective. And while they might become the unfinished projects… so do the main projects one might be trying to finish!
Three weeks ago, I was minding my own business while shopping. I realized I was making a weird face, to the consternation of a woman who thought I was staring at her as I pushed my cart towards the cat food. Suddenly I had a first line.
The Royal Ladies of Uhr-Venzenia were trained from infancy so that not even a gesture was out of place.
I schooled my expression, and shopped as quickly as I could while muttering the line in my head—but hopefully not out loud. I got home, dropped the groceries to the floor, pulled out my journal, and wrote it down—and whatever else came up:
The Royal Ladies of Uhr-Venzenia were trained from infancy so that not even a gesture was out of place. Anyone could be groomed so well that not a hair was out of place. That took time, good servants, and no errant breezes. With these women there was no random smirk, much less than a guffaw even at one of the jester’s best jokes. Desin was appalled when she met them….
Now, this might not seem dangerous, or a problem. As an opening, it’s possibly pretty good. I want to know what happens next. However, I am (uhm…was) in the midst of working on some revisions for Sen of the Woods, a revised opening with all the ideas necessary to re-start the second book in the series, The Goddess of the Ugly Grotto. Is that another unfinished project? Why hadn’t I finished it? Well….
As I mentioned in a previous post, on the Labor Day weekend I went to visit my sister in Durham, as well as writer Layton Green. I’d just finished revising at least 30 pages of Sen of the Woods with ideas so “loud”, I was sure it would be easy to get back to it.
BUT then another idea came up, after e-mail exchanges with Layton Green over the past few weeks, and… well… when I got home I was nine chapters into the serial story I’ll be posting online: The Adventures of the Relic Robbers: The Red Queen’s Cup (that will be linked to a fundraiser for Charity Water). I still haven’t gotten back to Sen of the Woods.
I told Jane that I could get Relic Robbers into a place where I could set it aside. I’d gotten used to telling stories or characters to wait their turn. I was sure I was made of strong stuff! And then today this happened:
The charnel house had been full, so they’d squeezed her grandmother in, higgledy piggledy, bones in whatever place they could find—but her skull had a place of note. She was, after all, a servant of the women of the Royal House of Uhr. Or had been. Venize spoke to her grandmother, and then walked up the hill to the small chapel off the temple complex where anyone, even a servant, could pray. In a rare shift of the wind, instead of blowing the stench out to sea, it followed her like a ghost and its cackling disconcerted laughter, “So this is it?”
She believed in God—the overarching presence she knew wove itself through her and everyone and everything. She didn’t feel heard, however, and knew that she’d be drinking that bottle of wine she’d hidden later that night. She looked up from where she knelt.
The Chapel, off the temple, was filled with icons of local demi-gods and saints that served the Great God, as well as—higgledy piggledy, like an overfilled charnel house—various icons of strange gods from the known world set among the ones of Uhr-Venzenia. Beautiful, strange, awful faces looked down at her, crowding all round her from their various perches on the walls.
She was a servant, and the habits of her work made her think, “This place needs dusting.”
And writing that down, I was curious about what happens next with this new character created for Hot New Idea book, and how it’s all going to come together—and if it will come together—all on the heels of Relic Robbers! Jane Lindskold is right. “The hot new idea is easy to get caught up in until it becomes yet another unfinished project.” Or the book you’re working on becomes unfinished!
My brain is like the charnel house and temple, teeming with skulls of old forgotten and unfinished stories and the icons of Hot New Ideas, demi-gods of my fiction all wanting to talk till they go silent on me. These new ideas have such loud voices, and yet I can hear this weird keening sound from Sen of the Woods, trying to get noticed again from the din of these other voices. I lack some of the discipline of those royal ladies I want to learn more about. It gets hard to tell the stories to “Wait Your Turn!” when you do more than write one scene down. It’s been two full weeks: I haven’t touched my supposedly main project at all, along with the incomplete draft of The Goddess of the Ugly Grotto has been on my mind for years.
I’m going to have to force myself to get back to Sen of the Woods and The Goddess of the Ugly Grotto. I don’t even have the time to just tell those other stories to Wait Their Turn. I have to put my head down and get back to work!
(p.s. make that three weeks, and because of work, and getting distracted by Hot New Ideas, it will be a full month before I work on Sen of the Woods again).