In some of my previous posts I’ve complained of a horde of story ideas jostling in the back of my head, trying to pull my attention away from whatever work-in-progress I’m currently writing. These ideas sometimes represent powerful temptations to stray off the beaten path, particularly if my WIP is giving me problems.
The problem is that writing a novel is, among other things, an exercise in daily discipline, and importuning, nagging projects that whisper in my ear, “C’mon, big boy– write me– I’m easy….” can severely undermine that discipline.
So I thought I would engage a little mental exercise here to try to clear the decks, in which I take the most unlikely ideas I have and put them in a box. Not a hermetically sealed container (you never know when something might re-spark an idea), but a place where I can say, “That’s in my PNW (Probably Not Writing) basket.”
Some of these ideas are just plain bad. Others are not particularly well-developed. Some were the amateur imaginings of my far-off youth. Some are in genres that are not my actual cup of tea, of which I would probably make a complete hash. Whatever they are, they are far, far down the list of projects I have in mind (or have the time) to write. Some of these stories exist in partial (or even complete) form, but for various reasons are un-publishable as they are, and would require too much work to revise. A “*” will indicate a story from which I have previously posted an abandoned fragment.
Oh, and by the way– if any of these ideas spark a story for you, have at it, with my blessings.
Starting more-or-less with the really wretched and going to the almost okay (some of these never had actual titles, or only working titles, so bear with me)–
1. Unnamed Roman romance novel– revolving around the Great Fire of Rome in AD 64, I could never figure out how to keep this from sliding into a standard, rather insipid romance between the Christian protagonist and the high-born Roman lady he adores from afar. Too bad, because it has a real cast of characters– Nero, Peter, Paul– plus the inherent drama of a major catastrophe. Think Titanic with the chance of a weinie roast.
2. Unnamed 1910 romance novel– this idea popped into my head, almost complete, years ago when I had the opportunity to visit Ft. Flagler in here in Washington State. It is the closest thing I have ever conceived to a Hallmark movie– a young soldier has to chose between two forbidden loves– the beautiful Chinese girl across the bay in Port Townsend, or the young but unhappy wife of the post chaplain….no, I can’t go on. You get the picture. Fortunately, I came to my senses before actually committing words to page. Begone….
3. Working title– Seeker*– a young barbarian, cast out of his home, finds a new life in a foreign city, while exploring the meaning of life and faith. I got about thirty thousand words into this one before the energy to write it drained away– part of the problem was I realized I was re-writing the story of Socrates with a happier ending. I like the concept of a fantasy character whose chief reason for being is to understand the universe (as opposed to simply bashing the bad guys), but I need to find a different story in which to put them.
4. Working title– The Legations*– a historical novel about the Boxer Rebellion in 1900, I lost the impetus to write it when I couldn’t do a convincing Chinese character, and when I realized that the action chiefly consisted of the protagonist blazing away invincibly at hordes of Chinese soldiers in a display of Texas marksmanship. It still tugs at my sleeve every now and then because I love the period, but it’s just not really a practical idea at this point.
5. Unnamed World War II romance*– this was the WAAF officer meets US Army Air Force tech sergeant idea I had from which I posted a fragment. Upon reflection, it just seems like a really sappy idea. Buh-bye….
6. Working title– Soren and the Snotty Elf Princess— a fantasy in which a young, up-from-the ranks commander has to go on a quest to find where an Elf princess from a bygone age sleeps in suspended animation, to win her help in stemming an otherworldly invasion. The problem is, the princess really dislikes humans– if she had to choose between saving the human race and saving cockroaches, the roaches would probably get the nod– so convincing her to help humanity is an up-hill fight, at best. I come back every now and then to this one– it has some good bits, and some characters I really like, including an elderly priest-scholar who is far more interested in young, nubile girls than he is in cultivating holiness. But it doesn’t feel particularly special to me as something that could stand out from the crowd of fantasy novels, and its world not particularly well thought-out, so I think I need to, with regret, set this one aside. Might re-introduce the priest elsewhere, though– he’s just too much fun….
7. Ranker, The Red Fort, A New Heaven and A New Earth*– the military alternate history series from which I’ve posted a couple of fragments. Three whole novels that are now, for various reasons, un-publishable, and from which I’ve moved on. I regret that this series didn’t work out, and I sometimes try to think how to reboot it, but it seems likely that moving on and letting go is the most productive thing I can do.
8. Unnamed science-fiction novel in the Divine Lotus series– a book that would have fallen between Princess of Fire and Princess of Stars, this would have focused, not on Kathy, but on another main character from the previous books, off dealing with a military disaster of his own on the planet Jauthur. I have pretty much decided not to write this story, as it would be something of a distraction from the main thread of the Divine Lotus series– but the events of the story will still form the back story of the character when he rejoins the main story line in Princess of Stars.
9. Tannimor, Nolokai, and Shokomari*– two complete and one partial novel from the epic fantasy I’ve described in previous posts, involving Mankin, my premier swordsman. This is the one that hurts, but ten or more years of revisiting it has not shown me a way to make it work, at least as I previously conceived it. If Mankin ever appears in published form, it will have to be in a very different story-line.
So, there– I think that clears my mind a bit. Some of these ideas can rest in peace; others have been properly staked and buried at a crossroads. This may appear to be a massacre, but I still have several ideas contending for my attention, quite aside from the Divine Lotus series. I do think the surviving concepts are stronger, in large measure because of the work I put in on all the projects that never saw the light of day.
Nothing you write is ever wasted.