My Own Personal Grey

The Prospect Before Me….


At the moment I have a short story due, and I admit, it’s being recalcitrant. Or I am.

It’s been my experience that I work better under pressure and that when I’m feeling uninterested in something, or laggy about it, the reason is usually that something about the project isn’t really ready to be barfed out onto pages yet.

But I still have to start. Because those stories don’t really write themselves and they don’t fix themselves. I have to go and make a mess before I can make it better. No matter how much planning and thinking I do before hand.

“No plan survives contact with the enemy” is attributed to any number of famous soldiers and tacticians. In the case of writing, no plot/writing plan survives contact with the page. As the words go down and the story starts to work and grow, things I was sure were going to be wonderful turn out stupid, or bits I was sure were going to be clever fail like a souffle on the Titanic. And the things I decided to worry about later, turn up a lot sooner and sometimes they aren’t a problem at all. And sometimes they are. Or the silly thing I threw in just because I kind of liked it and figured I’d have to take it out later turned out to be very useful indeed (and I can’t help wondering if something in my brain had figured this all out ahead of time and just hadn’t bothered to send me a memo.)


When stories are misbehaving at the start of the job like this, I grab onto something trivial about the story and beat the crap out of it. I’ll research it and poke it and go in all kinds of strange directions with it, just to see what it heaves to the surface. Usually some interesting fact or odd angle will arise that sets the whole thing into wild motion and then, I’m off!

But I have to poke it quite a bit first. Until it starts growling and wriggling and yelling “I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!” And then we shall have a wrestle. And then we shall have a fight. And all my plans will go to hell in a lovely hand basket and come back with a bow on top (after a bit of singeing and manhandling.)

No story idea survives contact with the keyboard, unscathed. Because scathed is much more interesting than pristine.