A pause for thought ….

It pleased you to make me endless
You empty this frail vessel over and over
Then fill it with fresh life again.
You carry me like a hollow reed over hill and dale
Eternally breathing new melodies through me.
At the immortal touch of your hand
My little heart loses itself in joy.
Still you pour into me, and still there is room to fill.

(Deepak Chopra, Living the Infinite – On the Shores of Eternity, Poems from Tagore)

All in all, a good week – everything on the list is ticked off!! (which is nice), but plenty of food for thought, and so a pause to reflect on what I’ve done and learnt and a look at what I’ve got coming up seemed in order.


I started back into Holly Lisle’s Survival School for Writers (How to Think Sideways) and am up to lesson 14 now.  I’ve reached the conclusion that I do need to be applying this to actual writing, rather than just constructing theoretical situations to test out the techniques. I’ve got so much out of the lessons this week, that I’ve realised that I should be using these techniques on the edits I’ve got in progress AND in some of the short stories that are picking up multiple rejections.

I guess that’s pretty obvious, but eureka moments do shift the universe left a couple of paces and need time to adjust to ;). 

I’m already being pinged a lot of new ideas and fresh perspectives on existing stories, all of which help me explain and understand the issues with them, AND these ideas are showing me new ways of approaching them to resolve those problems. All of this is tremendously exciting and energising on the one hand, but on the other I feel rather daunted, because the amount of work and the urgency with which I want to carry it all out *right now* is overwhelming.

So, some sort of replanning/rethinking needs to happen.

I’m going to use the ‘time off’ whilst we’re away camping next week to figure it out, I hope.

I’m considering the planned CONTAIN THIS HOUR novella as a test-bed for the HTTS work. As it is, it’s an experimental piece, so I feel I have less to lose by ‘playing’ with it than with the SERE project which is really burning me, and it’s considerably shorter at around 40k planned words than the anticipated 120k-odd that SERE will need. To work HTTS together with the novella in this way fits, more or less, with the headline timings of the different pieces of work I’ve got lined up. 

Initially, I’d planned to clear the HTTS backlog in July, and then work on the ANNETH edits in August, with CONTAIN THIS HOUR dropping into September. What I’m now thinking is that switching CONTAIN THIS HOUR back into July/August will work, mostly because I can work offline in notebooks whilst we’re on holiday.

I did some work on the planning of it this afternoon whilst Honey was riding, and realised it was stalled because other than a pretty high-level concept and a handful of Philip Larkin poems, I had virtually nothing else driving it … so …. back to the drawing board. I’ve now got sentence, a clearer concept/outline query for it, and have started going back over the character pre-plans to flesh it out. I can already see that although it’s only planned as a little novella, it’s going to be a big task to get this story done right.

The first problem is how I weave together two apparently unrelated stories – to an extent I did this in DISCONNECTION, but this takes it a step further – so that they both share the same resolution or, perhaps more accurately, the resolution of the older story, the war-story, sets up the resolution of the contemporary story thread.

The second problem is that this story takes a big step out of the spec fic comfort zone I’ve been playing in up to now, and means that I need to tie this fictional world more closely to reality than I have done before – in novel terms, anyway, as a startling number of my short stories are firmly grounded in a contemporary reality. There’s a part of me that’s rebelling against this, telling me that I could switch it equally well into a spec-fic fantasy environment, but I know that’s just my fear talking: this is a mainstream story, a blending of a WWII love story with a more modern family morality tale and it will be written as such. It will *not* work as well as a spec-fic, because place, culture and historical period are as important to the story as the characters themselves.

A further contributing factor is that because this more mainstream, the themes are much smaller in scale – no epic fantasy heroic struggles here, no space opera political machinations to factor in. This is a human scale story, and the costs and benefits are personal, nor global. The world will not end if Florence’s does, and so getting to grips with her hopes, fears, needs and ambitions requires that bit more finesse. It will be interesting to see if I can manage the subtleties …

So: plenty of thinking done on CONTAIN THIS HOUR. What is equally fascinating to me is the corresponding level of new thoughts going into the novels waiting to be edited, and how this can be applied to my short story writing …. and how the heck I’m going to find the time to work them all in! The novel edits are pretty much scheduled, so that is less a concern, provided I can contain my own impatient enthusiasm to get started on them, but the short stories are more problematical: I guess I need to find some patience from somewhere and just turn them round, one at time, and get them back out there again, better and stronger than before.

I keep hoping that I will learn that time is immaterial, and that I do not need to get stressed that I have so much backlog stacked up, feeling that I have the almighty list constantly on my back like the old man of the sea. I have moments when I can accept that all things have their season, that there is no rush, that I do not need immediate gratification. The frequency and duration of such moments are increasing, so that I feel like that more often, and for longer.

But all too soon the panic returns, the looming sense of onrushing death and failure to shape my stories and ideas and put them out there, the eye of the clock watching me and demanding that I obey its command to perform now and now and now and now, whilst still the stories pour into me, and still there is room to fill.

I need to set aside this need to pour my stories out in a single, rushing stream and become more mindful of what it is that I am doing. In the sea of my own silence, I work these words for my own enjoyment, and the satisfaction of the craft comes as much from the process – as it does in sewing and working with textiles – as it does in the completion of an object or a story.

When I accept those moments of awareness and insight, when I work a story for its own sake rather than to be able to say ‘I finished another story’, then the work I produce is better, and gives me more satisfaction because I have been more involved and more intimate with it, and because it is more wholly given from my core self.

As a writer, this is a powerful lesson to learn.


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