Words, words, words

I’ve been struggling with my writing for a long time. It’s not that I think I’m a particularly bad writer (though I certainly know that I’m not one of the best), but I suffer from bouts of writer’s block that can last for months at a time. Years, sometimes.

The problem is that I have always had too many stories in my head that I want to tell. I get excited about one project, work on it for a bit, and then I get all excited about another project and move on to that before the previous one is done. The result, of course, is that nothing gets done at all. My files are filled with hundreds of short stories that I’ve started and not finished, as well as dozens of novels. I don’t have any plays or screenplays in there, but there is at least one teleplay that I started working on that never got finished.

It’s very frustrating. How do I know what’s a worthy idea, and what’s not? How do I decide which project to focus on? How do I stop that inevitable feeling of dread that comes up, the one that gets me thinking, “I shouldn’t have chosen to focus on this project, it’s a load of crap, I should have worked on something else?” I don’t know. It’s something I’ve struggled with for a number of years. I’ve even had the opportunity to discuss this problem with a couple of different successful novelists, who have given me some tips but nothing that could really help me in the long run.

So now, I’ve finally made a decision. I have A Plan. I’ve narrowed my list of projects that I want to work on, and I’ve come up with a timeline for working on them. And here is that timeline, with the projects listed:

  • From now through October, I’m going to work on an outline for The Outer Darkness. This is a space opera which takes place on a distant planet, in a universe that I developed with a couple of friends of mine for a role-playing game a few years back. The game never was finished, sadly, but I think that the universe itself has a lot going for it.
  • During that time, I’ll also be working on the following short stories:
  • “Variations on a Theme”. I just finished this story, but it’s in need of heavy revision.
  • “The Winds of Patwin County: A Tragedy in Four Gusts”. This is a short story I’ve been pondering for a couple of years now. I think I finally have an angle.
  • “A Thousand Times Before”. I wrote this story a month or so ago, and now my friend Ed and I will be revising it together.
  • I also have an idea for a short story called “The Reinvention of Timothy Livingston”, largely autobiographical, but I might put it off for awhile.
  • November is time for NaNoWriMo. So in November, I plan on writing the first 50,000 words of The Outer Darkness. That will be a really rough draft, of course. So starting in December I’ll be revising it. I plan to have the first draft of The Outer Darkness completed by June 2005.
  • And starting in December, I also want to take a year to outline The Terassic Cycle, a set of novels which take place in a universe I’ve been developing for close to fifteen years for various role-playing games that I’ve run. It’s a tremendously complex universe, I think, with lots of potential, but it needs… organizing. So I’m going to take a year to organize it.
  • Also in December I want to run a role-playing game using the Call of Cthulhu system called “The Shallows”. This game will take place in a universe I’m tentatively calling the Clooneyverse (after a character I played in a Changeling game, Gilbert Clooney). I’ve only been developing the Clooneyverse for a few months now, but I realized recently that the seeds for it were initially planted back in 1984 when I wrote a short story called “The Wayward Garbage Truck”. Most of my short stories take place in the Clooneyverse.
  • And then after I’m done with The Terassic Cycle — which I’m currently envisioning as a sequence of nine novels — I plan on writing novels that take place in the Clooneyverse. No ideas are forthcoming for them right now, but that’s easily ten years away anyway.
  • Looking at this now, I can see how ambitious this all is. Actually, it’s kind of intimidating. And my intimidation factor isn’t helped by the article I recently read in a back issue of Writer’s Digest: in this article, the author says, “Thirty-five may seem like a really late age for a first-time novelist.” I’m 36, and I’ve only ever published one short story. Thanks for the confidence booster.

    But I figure it’s kind of like that ninety pounds that I have to lose (well, eighty-seven now). It’s intimidating, but I know that by working hard and staying dedicated, I can do it.

    Sad to say…

    I’m retiring this journal. The format isn’t working for me anymore, and over the past few months, updating it has felt a lot more like a chore than like something I’ve really enjoyed doing. Thus, the retirement.

    However, I am starting up a new journal. It’s a different format, powered by different software, and I think it will be easier to read and navigate — and, most importantly, easier and more fun for me to update. I’m calling it “Worlds in My Head” for various reasons, and it will serve as my main journal. It’s at http://www.mossroot.com/worlds.

    That’s it. Goodbye.