Thursday, May 21, 2009

A Big Fish

I get sidetracked easily. Three weeks or so ago, I made a vow that I was going to focus all of my energies on researching my novel. I have the idea, but I need details. A lot of details. So I set to it, braced mself against distraction and went digging up the dirt, picking out only the tastiest of the bones. Then, this week, I had an idea for a story.
Anyone who writes short stories knows that they come along like fish up a river. There are the occasional sprats and minnows that look tasty enough when they catch the sun, but when you do hook them, after a bit of a struggle, you get to realising that they really weren't worth the effort. The trick - and I have only learned this from years of diligent, frustrated practice - is to only go after the ones you really want. They are not always easy to identify, of course, but you do the best you can. And the thing about storie ideas, and fish, is that you either go for them when they are passing or you give them up as lost, because they very rarely pass your way again.
This week - Monday, I think it was - I caught a glimpse of a tasty-looking story. And I went for it. Now, here I am and it is Thursday afternoon. I'm still not done, but I've made it through the worst of the struggle, and at least I can see the end in sight. Actually, it has been a pretty decent week of writing. When it's really working, when the fish are biting and the words are flowing, I don't think there's a better feeling in the world. It doesn't last, of course. You wade through your second or third rewrite (or your tenth, if that's your way of doing things), and maybe you'll take a minute or a day to wallow in the glow of self-contentment. Then you pack it up, your latest baby, plaster on the stamps and send it off out into the big unfriendly world. And you wait for those rejections to roll in.
So, there it is. A week nearly down, another new story nearly done and a pile of historical novel research mouldering away in the desk drawer. Novels don't get written by letting them moulder, but what can I say? My problem is that I like fishing. I understand the problems posed by fish, but when you reel in a good one it truly is a heartfelt joy. The rest of the time, all you can really do is try not to fall in the river...

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