I’m writing novel stuff. And I’m writing short fiction stuff. And so far, at least, it seems to be working.
I read a note by another writer — Robin Hobb, I think? — who mentioned that she often has new ideas, or ideas for new first lines of a story, while she’s working on a larger project. And to get those things away, and prevent them from interfering with their novel, they would simply write that idea or line on a piece of paper to get it out, then fold it up and set it aside for later.
I tried to do that, or something similar. No paper, but otherwise much the same thing. But in this one case, the story felt like I had to write it. I worked it through, polished it up, and sent it out this weekend just gone (another postal submission, which is something I just love doing). The title of the story came to mind late in the evening, and then before I woke the next day, much of the story’s form had taken root in my head. Instead of a first line, or an idea, I had the whole story half-formed in my head. And that’s not something that’s easy to just scribble down on a piece of paper and set aside.
Fortunately, it’s not usually that way. This has been the only story like that, and the other ideas I have been able to just jot down, as concepts waiting for me to explore them later. However, it still leaves the other stories that I have simmering. There are several pieces of short fiction that need editing, or tweaking, and a couple that I have yet to finish, which I had started before the novel project began. And I worry that if I let them sit for too long without finishing them, they’ll fall by the wayside, and sit incomplete for a very long time, if they’re ever completed at all.
(I wonder, as I sit and write this — how many of our favourite, great writers, had many more stories set aside yet to write, or stories only half-written? I would imagine it’s most of them — and even amongst that limited group of authors, there must have been thousands of new stories seeded, the ideas and shape half-formed for tales that they never got to tell, stories that were known only to them, and that we’ll never get to read. I know that I will never write all the stories I think of — even now, I have around fifty short stories lingering and half-finished, and many more that I would like to revisit and rewrite with fresh eyes and mind.)
In the end, I know I could have written more on my novel by now. But if I had, then I’d also not have finished this short story, or put the last touches to a couple of others. And I’m not sure I would be so much happier with that. Still, with this one story now finished, I expect that the novel will start to get more of my attention — at least, until the next story gets inside my head and refuses to let go. Fortunately, right now, that story seems to be the novel…