Last week, I took a business trip to Chicago. As I was showering that morning I was thinking about how the day would go, and what I would do to occupy myself on the plane. I quickly realized that all the important work-related stuff I had to do was on Google Docs or other web sites, and my non-internet-enabled flight rendered that all untenable. So I considered my other options.
The night before, a gimmick had occurred to me for a twist in a story. It wasn’t much, but as I pictured it in my head, it started to expand into a larger canvas and the quick outline of a short story presented itself to me. This happens to me every once in a while, and it’s fun to think about how it would go, but in the end I usually get distracted by something else and let the idea die.
This time, as I remembered my idea in the shower I thought, “hey! I can probably knock out at least a good chunk of that story on the plane ride. Then I’ll finish it up and polish it on the way home.”
Ah, I can hear the patronizing chuckles from the real writers out there. Yeah, I was an idiot.
See, I’d read what professional writers say about writing. Without exception they all say it’s hard. Really hard. It’s not that I didn’t believe them. I just figured I’d pop out a mediocre first draft, and then the hard part would be fixing it and making it passably good (I have no delusions that it would be actually good).
Let me tell you… it’s hard. Really hard.
In that hour where I was allowed to have electronic devices turned on, I wrote 6 sentences. Most of them weren’t very long. Every one of them was like an epic wrestling match between the visual and linguistic centers of my brain. I’ve decided that those centers don’t communicate well with each other. Both of them came out of that hour staggering from the blows they took. It doesn’t help that the impatient perfectionist in me is screaming at the rest of me to get it done now – but don’t screw it up!
But at the end of that time, I had a solid starting place, and had come up with some new ideas for the plot and characters. I figured I’d pick it up on the return flight and toss a page together pretty quickly with my newly found, incredibly clearly realized direction.
That return flight yielded 4 sentences.
It’s hard. Really freaking hard.
I’ve since worked on it for a few hours at a shot, and I’m only a few sentences further.
Holy crap it’s hard.
But I really want to finish this one. I’ve started it, and I want to prove – if only to myself – that I can finish it. So here I am, telling you about it. I’m hoping it motivates me to keep going. Because maybe you’ll want to read it, and I don’t want to disappoint you. (Disappointment may be inevitable, even if you do get to read it, but that’s a different issue.)
As I sit here writing this post, I’m wondering whether I should share the few paragraphs I’ve written so far. I even have it on my clipboard, ready to paste in below. I do like it, even though it’s unpolished. But I’m not sure if it’s enough yet to appropriately whet your appetites. And maybe it’s a little too unpolished. I think I’ll hold on to it for now.
But I’ll tell you this much: it’s about a man who is an exquisitely skilled fighter. We start in the middle of an escalating, somewhat mysterious one-to-many fight and jump back and forth between the fight and the character’s background, and see how his skills helped determine the path of his life. Is he a spy? A vigilante? A thief? A cop? An assassin? A mercenary? A super-hero?
Hopefully, I’ll finish it and we can find out.