There must be at least a few good reasons to say nothing about one’s current project. I’m not sure if all of them are legit. Some are surely superstitions.
(By the way, confession is a powerful practice, especially for someone raised old-school Catholic like me. In my May 19 post, I confessed to having two stubborn superstitions. One of them was feeling compelled to read the entire Help Wanted section in the local paper each Sunday so that I never have to apply for a job again. The following Sunday morning, I sat down with my 20-oz., 4-shot Americano and a copy of the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner at the coffee shop and realized how stupid the whole Help Wanted ritual was. I didn’t feel the need to read it then, and didn’t, and I haven’t read it since. Just like that, another flea crushed.)
(As for my last remaining superstition, I have no desire to reveal or eliminate it. It’s rather homey and sweet.)
When someone asks me (and I think this holds true for other authors) what I’m working on, I usually reply in very broad terms, such as, “on my third novel,” or “on my latest science fiction novel.” I avoid detail. I never reveal the plot.
I do this for these reasons:
- When I talk about a work-in-progress, the talking seems to dissipate the story’s energy, leaving not enough juice for the difficult work of getting it down on paper.
- Fear of having my ideas ripped off by revealing too much.
- Even small details can give too much away.
- Talking about something like a plot or character can “lock it in,” sometimes too soon.
- At some point the whole project might implode and I stop working on it (it’s happened). Wouldn’t exactly like to do this live online.
- It’s bad luck.
In my May post, I brought you up to Nov. 2010. What have I been doing since?
I have been working on a novel that pretty much combines the essences of most of my recent “failed” projects. Fresh from the composting heap of my mind to yours.
There is a working title, but it gives too much away, and I can’t say it.
I can say that it’s my first Alaskan novel. It seems impossible to me, but I’m fast approaching my 40th anniversary as an Alaskan. I guess I’m gaining a long view of the place. You’d be surprised at the variety of stories you can collect about a place over a course of 40 years. And it’s about time I get some of that down on paper. About time I laid claim to this wild territory in my memory. So I’m setting the story in a very special corner of Alaska, a place I’m going to visit in about ten days--the largest National Park in America. (more on that later)
It’s also my first E.T. story ever. I’ve never published a story with an alien character. As one who sides with the great, late Mundane SF movement, I dismissed alien contact as improbable and thus not mundane enough to write about. That’s why I never invented an alien character, only posthuman clones and sentient AIs.
These days I think, why the hell not? Aliens are fun, and they have traditionally served a number of purposes in SF fiction (more on that later), one of which is: Alien as Foil. That is, through interaction with non-human sentients, we gain insight into what qualities make us human.
This seems especially fitting, since a major theme of this book is . . .
. . . the neurological basis of Faith. I have not given up my desire to explore in fiction a cool idea I have about religious faith. What better way to speak to that issue than aliens in the Alaskan bush? (more on that later too, I guess).
S and T Palin may or may not play a role in this book. Probably only a cameo. I don’t know. Maybe they provide the plot a McGuffin.
Although I’ve been working on this book since Dec. 2010, and despite about 400 longhand pages of a first draft and 120 pages of notes, much of the story is still obscured in the mist of possibility. I simply do not know what happens. Every day or so, another puzzle is solved, and a rush of invention follows. At this point I have a good idea where the story is headed, but I don’t know how it gets there, and am making everything up as I go along. When I get stuck and can’t proceed, sometimes it means that I’ve gone off track, and I have to back up to firmer ground. I delete whole chapters or entire characters or story threads. I go back to the last sure text and restart from there. This is the way I seem to work, rather than outlining the whole story before beginning to write.
What else do I dare reveal? Here’s one. There’s a dog character, a mixed German shepherd named Crissy Lou. Her owners, in Glennallen, Alaska, were high bidders in a fundraising auction for 49 Writers last year. For their winning bid, Crissy Lou gets to do a cameo part in the novel. Well, she’s in there already, and it looks like she may possibly play a plot-driving role. Maybe a heroic part like Lassie. I don’t know, but it could very well happen.
stay tuned for more--