I’ve been putting pencil-to-paper; pen-to-paper; fingers-to-manual-typewriter; fingers-to-electric-typewriter; fingers-to-electronic-typewriter; fingers-to-Apple II; fingers-to-desktops-of-various-makes; fingers-to-laptop...since I wrote my very first story some time in 1969.
I’d just finished reading John Christopher’s THE WHITE MOUNTAINS series and was poised on the edge of Heinlein, Norton, Wollheim, and Nourse and penciled my first story, “The White Vines”. A blatant rip off of Christopher’s novel, I clearly remember staring out the window of the late bus as it passed through an intersection with drying cornfields on all four sides. That selfsame corner now has a light industrial park on one corner, a huge vacant lot through which you can see the spur of Interstate 94, westbound; the site of a supposed new church (the sign announcing its arrival is so faded, you can barely see the artist’s rendition; and a corrugated steel shed in the center of a field of potatoes.
While “The White Vines” has been lost to antiquity, my second story, “The Black Planet” and a later one titled, “A Place In Between” both survive.
Reading them is painful, but instructive. Mainly because it’s easy to see that I have come a long, long way in my writing. At that time, it was dream to be published in ANALOG. I have been – three times (I have yet to rise to the attention of the new editor, Trevor Qachri). I have an agent now. Both goals I deeply desired to reach when I was on-the-verge of adolescence.
You’d think that reaching that level of publication, I would have learned my craft and that there was nothing left!
There isn’t! The fact is that, as far as the techniques, rules and practices of writing, there’s very little that I have left to learn. I still pick up writing books – which I put down because, as King Solomon once said, “That which has been is that which will be, And that which has been done is that which will be done. So there is nothing new under the sun.” Ecclesiastes 1:9
Nothing new under this sun.
Go ahead – teach me something new! Try me with a writing discipline, idea or concept that you’ve discovered that I haven’t read already a dozen times.
You won’t be able to, because the place I am at now is a place I will be for the rest of my writing life: application of ideas.
I just finished two new short stories and I’m revising another one. The first two I wrote specifically with this idea in mind, “Give the main character a clear goal.”
The idea is nothing new or earth-shattering. However, I am more frequently inept in its application than I am skilled. I look at my published writing and it’s clear that I KNOW the idea, but I cannot apply it consistently. So in my “new year’s resolution” (http://faithandsciencefiction.blogspot.com/2013/01/possibly-irritating-essays-twenty-five.html), I planned on writing at least 10 NEW short stories.
I have finally come to understand that the only way I can become ept at applying an idea is to PRACTICE. Which is, by the way, not a new idea. Just one that I haven’t taken to heart and applied.
How about you? Got an idea I’ve never seen before?