Monday, March 15, 2010

A Miscellany: The Ides of March, Looking for the Next Story, Keep An Eye Out for Characters and Practical Filekeeping... et al

It's March 15th. If your name is Julius, you might want to hide for awhile. And watch that Cassius, he's a skinny fella and skinny people tend to know a good deal about knives.  I don't know why that is, but Mister Shakespeare is not to be second-guessed.

I've said several times in recent days that I was looking for the next novel to write, but in all honesty, I generally have several projects in various stages of completion at any given moment.  The real question isn't "what book do I write next" but rather "which book shall receive the brunt of my attentions?"

Since I pronounced the book I'd been working on "Done" (but never finished) I've been shifting the piles of notes and character concepts and sundry whatnot trying to find the next story to receive my concentrated efforts.  I've spoken before of my habit of squirreling away every idea that springs to mind in one of two computer files.  Nascent story ideas are "Seedlings" and characters go into the "Cocktail Party" to mingle with other character ideas in hopes that they'll naturally form alliances, hook up, etcetera.

As you know if you've been following this blog for any length of time, I subjected myself to the insanity of NaNoWriMo and came out of it with fifty thousand words of a proto-novel.  By itself, this isn't really a great novel and the story I created that November by itself isn't a novel.  So I tossed it into the garden with the other seedlings and it got trampled on by the attendees of my character cocktail party and... well, I think I've found my next project.

Today's writing tip is as old as Julius Caesar's very bad day: Save every idea you have.  Write them down so you won't forget them.  File them away, let them mingle, grow, mutate, and do the things that are best done out of the sight of decent society.

I know I keep repeating that, but it's worth repeating.  I'm always amazed at how often they come out of the files stronger for having spent their time there.

And in case you doubt that talking to the people you come across every day has value, today I sat down next to an archaeologist who knew and acted as a sort of general factotum to Thor Heyerdahl.  I would never take his stories because that would be rude and I rarely turn people I know into characters wholesale.  But if there's not a story seedling or two there, I don't know where else to find them.

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Pages to Type is a blog about books, writing and literary culture (with the occasional digression into coffee and the care and feeding of giant robots).