As I prepare for next month’s NaNoWriMo, I find myself suffering from commitment jitters. I am, after all, a short-story writer and have been since, well, forever.
The truth is, I’ve been diligently avoiding the novel form not because I lacked ideas but because I had too many excuses. Well, it won’t be long before my big excuse grows up and leaves home; a thought which forced me to wrestle my fears into a recognizable shape and give them a name.
It came as no great surprise, once I had lured it from my sub-conscious, knocked it down and stared into its blood-red eye, that my personal scary-monster-under-the-bed is a common old thing known as Fear of Failure.
Now I know why I’m feeling jittery, and it all has to do with one particular story. It’s time for me to put it “out there” and, quite frankly, get over it.
When I was about twelve years old (that was a LONG time ago), I sat with my father by the camp fire and spun him a tale that was powerfully influenced by The Lord of The Rings (of course), and Dune, (which I’d just finished for the second time, back-to-back). He listened and never once interrupted. (I often remind myself of that when Katie goes on, and on, and on….)
Moreover, once I’d finished telling him this convoluted tale, Dad made me promise that I’d write it, for him…
More than thirty-something years later, I finally got around to tackling the first part of that story and Sleeping Dragons was published in Asimov’s in 2004.
It seemed like a good idea to continue writing short back-stories while I was caught up with the baby. I wrote several, (including “Truth, and the Cosmologist“) that were all set in the Sleeping Dragon universe between 2005 and 2008, all of which are still in their draft forms and waiting their turn in the pipeline.
I will note here that my key character in two of these stories is a star-gazer who believes that she can drag her superstitious people, kicking and screaming, into a Scientific Renaissance.
I recently re-opened those stories and decided that it was about time I got to keeping my campfire promise. It didn’t take long for my Personal Monster to ambush me with a tor.com article: Epic Fantasy Is Everything and by this quote, in particular:
“..I started with an absolute cliche. The oldest trick in the book is the low-born kid who has to make a living on the tough street, only to find out he’s got this secret destiny. And I said, ‘Well, how can I mess with that? How can I screw with that?’ I figured out that this guy’s destiny is in fact to destroy the fantasy milieu and drag his world screaming into the Rennaissance.” “
The article is upbeat and positive but this was so close to my own plotline that I fell head first into a huge Funk and Dive. Just to make sure the message had been received, my Monster crawled out from under my bunk and handed me a copy of George Martin’s Game of Thrones. It then retreated into the dark, chuckling evilly.
How could I ever hope to write an epic fantasy after that?
Being a mature, middle-aged woman, I pulled the covers over my head and tried to hide from the truth. I was just plain chicken – afraid that if I set out to write this novel it would be NO GOOD.
Well, it took a while, but finally, my Personal Monster is so last week.
Today is Sunday 30 October, 2011. NaNoWriMo is looming, I’ve put aside George and I’ve polished my story outline because, really, no-one gives a fig whether or not I write that novel, except me. “Dragon of the Eclipse” has been causing a creative log-jam for long enough and it’s time I kept my promises and put my ghosts to bed. Old memes can be remixed and childish stories can be realized just for fun, and for my dad.