I have been happily crafting short stories for the last couple of years, in between finishing my last novel and weighing publishing options. Some stories have even been published. This has been immensely satisfying, especially in contrast with writing long-form fiction. It’s like the difference between adopting a dog and raising a child, where the dog is the short story and the child is the novel. The rewards of a dog may be less emotionally satisfying, but the time-to-payoff is much shorter.
So imagine my surprise when my latest puppy (story) stopped wagging its tail and pressing its wet nose into my hand, stood up on two legs, and announced in an all-too-human voice: “I may be your next novel.”
Right now, this new man-dog is neither man nor beast. It’s a collection of characters, ideas, and themes I want to explore. Making all this coalesce into a coherent narrative is a messy process, the contemplation of which makes my stomach roil.
Most surprising of all has been the subject. I don’t like to talk in detail about works in progress, but to give you a hint, I’ll remind you that I admire the fiction of writers like Margaret Atwood and Kevin Brockmeier. This new work involves a world other than our own, which means I must spend more time than usual creating the milieu in which my characters will live, a world full of unfamiliar ideas, apparatuses, machinery, and attitudes. I must imagine all of them—and how they fit together, why they are there, and what they mean to my characters. One of my critique group partners, YA fantasy author Wendy Walter, says world-building is her favorite part of the writing process. For me, definitely not. But I love a good challenge.
Maybe you’ve heard writers talking about their fiction taking on a life of its own. I don’t know yet exactly how far this new endeavor will take me, but I’m excited to go along for the ride. Stay tuned.
Have you ever been hijacked by an idea?