Most of the time, writing is like pulling your own teeth out with a pair of tweezers. The words themselves may come easy (they mostly always have for me), but the story, that thing behind the words that’s what most people actually care about, lurks there, at the bottom of the socket, hiding amongst identically-shaped fragments that constitute the various distractions and wrong turns every writer knows all too intimately and which the reader rarely sees but can only intuit the existence of.
But sometimes, blessed be, your creative subconscious will just upload a whole story into your brain, fully-formed and ready to be written; all you have to do is get to it fast enough to get it on paper (or screen) before it fades into the mist. Before a couple of nights ago, that had only happened to me once. Now it’s happened twice.
It was on the way home from World Fantasy Con, which was great good fun what with all the schmoozing and socializing and not having a book to pitch or a particular agent or editor to track down and practice my elevator speech on. I was driving alone, grateful for a long stretch of solitude and a longer stretch of highway to go with it. I’d been thinking about what I was going to work on when I got home (part of the reason I wanted to go to World Fantasy was to reinvigorate my writerly brain, which has been dormant thanks to the brick wall of my life and all the various happenings entailed therein), and though my original plan had been to get back to work on The Victorius Revolution, which I started over the summer and which I planned to finish over NaNoWriMo, I was introduced to Gordon Van Gelder at the Tor party and it seemed like a good idea to send him something while my name might still ring a bell, so I had decided to go back and finish the revisions on a story I’d written at the beginning of the summer, which I thought might be up his particular literary alley. I’d been thinking about both of those projects for much of the drive (you know, when I wasn’t staring blankly ahead, thinking about nothing), and felt like I’d primed my creative subconscious as well as I could to get working on them.
Then, somewhere just north of Portland, a short fantasy story, which I’ve named Heavy Lies the Burden, crystallized out of the ether of my brain, ready to be written right away. I had characters, a plot, the beginnings of a world in the background, and I teased and toyed with it for a while before filing it away in the to-write pile.
Then I got home, and slept, and the next day went to my office to work on the things I’m supposed to be working on, more specifically the revisions to Turing Test, the short story I’ll be posting to F&SF when it’s ready. I managed to fix some missteps from the last time I’d worked on it, but when I pushed against the barrier at the end of what I’d written it kept pushing back. So I messed around awhile, with the facebook and my blog. Tthere was a fair bit to do, as I’d reposted something I wrote a couple of years ago about my mother’s funeral; it was the all-time biggest day for traffic on my site.
But I wanted to get some writing done, and I thought, ‘well, I had that one idea last night, let’s see what happens with that.’ What happened was a complete draft (it’s short, only about 2150 words) in about two hours. I looked it over again today, and made a few small changes to the prose, but everything else was where it was supposed to be, and I couldn’t imagine what changes I could make that would make it better. So I submitted it for publication, bada boom bada bing.
Sometimes you get lucky like that, I guess. Most of the time you gotta work for it, though. Still, it’s nice when your brain gives you a gift like that, and when it does, you’d better unwrap it right away. You never know what you’re going to find in there.