How Stories Don’t Get Written

By now, you’ve probably figured out that I have a LOT of unfinished work sitting around. How’d you guess? Well, you’ve seen absolutely NOTHING. Trust me… what I’ve posted so far isn’t even a quarter of my postable archives. By “postable” I mean stories that have left the planning stages and that I actually started to write. Maybe a paragraph. Maybe a chapter. Maybe half a damned novel. I’ve boasted a few times to a few different people that I’ve got plot outlines and character studies for a good half-dozen novels just sitting around on my hard drive. The only thing left to do was to sit my ass down and start writing.

But I never did.

Why is that, exactly?

Three main reasons:

1. The idea wasn’t really that good.

I have a lot of ideas… not over the course of a week, but in one DAY I get enough ideas to fill an TV season. Most of them are crap, and I’d like to think I’m good enough to veto the junk ideas before they make it from my brain to my keyboard. But sometimes the filter is on the blink, and I actually devote time and energy to an idea that just isn’t that good. When I recognize that this has happened, I stop. Of course, my idea of what a “good” story is can change over time, and some of the stuff I abandoned is now, on second inspection, not all that bad. The opposite is also true: There are a couple of stories in the Library right now that should never have seen the light of day (at least not in their current form).

2. I don’t do fan-fiction.

I don’t hate it… but I don’t read it and I certainly don’t write it. I could say something extremely offensive to the fan-fiction writers out there, but I’ll just pass on that opportunity for now and get you the next time. What does that have to do with my abandoned projects? A lot actually. I get inspired by lots of different things… including movies, TV shows, and stories written by other people. I may be inspired to create something similar, and as long as it isn’t TOO similar I can feel good about doing it without being an idea thief. But sometimes I cross the line. Sometimes I create something that has moved on from being “inspired by-” and is solidly in the arena of “a total ripoff of-“. It doesn’t happen often, but it happens. When it does… when I find myself sitting down and mentally listing the differences between my idea and the original… when I have to seriously have THAT conversation with myself… it’s time to give it up and try another idea. Because I don’t steal ideas and I do not do fan fiction. A case in point: In a few days I’m going to post the beginning of a science fiction story that isn’t almost… isn’t “kind of”… but is EXACTLY like Battlestar Galactica. When I realized what I was doing, I quit immediately. It was the only decent thing to do.

The above two cases account for a bit less than a third of the stuff I’ve abandoned. The vast majority fall into the final category:

3. Too many ideas, too little time.

The sequence of events goes like this: I have an idea. It’s a big one. It’s the mothership of all ideas… this is the one that’s going to make me rich. Hell, this idea is so good that I can write the story and give it away for FREE and it will STILL make me rich. They’re going to make MOVIES out of this one! So I spend days making notes and writing summaries, building worlds and growing characters all the way from birth to adulthood. All the corny things that you hear writers talking about but you don’t think they really do (yes, we really do them) and now I’m ready to sit down and start slinging text. And away we go… Ahhh, but now I’ve got this OTHER idea. And I can’t very well work on them both at the same time, can I? So I’ll just put the first idea on hold while I work on the other one… and so on. I guess it boils down to lack of discipline. Even though I may have spent weeks carving out a masterpiece of a story, I don’t want that next big idea to get away, so I jump on it. And I keep jumping from idea to idea. Another ugly truth is that its more fun planning stories and building worlds than it is to actually write the damned stories. If I could get paid just to come up with ideas and write summaries, I’d call that a REAL heaven. But you folks want the stories. You don’t want a character sketch an a story outline, you want the drama and the action and the words on the page (or screen). That involves actual work on my part. It’s fun work, but it’s not *quite* as fun as sitting in my chair daydreaming about the idea I just had while I was typing this. That’s what happened to the majority of the fragments I’m posting here. Whatever it was, I thought it was an awesome idea at the time, but the next idea was even more awesome and I lacked the discipline to say “No, not right now”.

So… anybody wanna buy some story ideas?


  1. DarkWells, September 18, 2007:

    I could not agree with the above, one time I ploted out a nine novel science fiction series, I thought up the characters, their names, their traits, their personalities, the different planets, how they got started how they got destroyed, how the planets went to war, the history of these planets, their climate type, their names! But after I did all this planning, and I was going to call it Dark Star by the way which sounded like a good name at the time, I just really didn’t want to write it. And right now I have an entirely written novel called Karma that I just need to edit for story faults but I’ve just read through it so many times I just don’t want to read it anymore so on a disk it sits. Oh and not to bring on your wrath but one time and one time only I wrote a fan-fiction for a video game I liked.

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