word craft


I Need to Decide Soon

“Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?”

“That depends a good deal on where you want to get to,” said the Cat. 

“I don’t much care where —“ said Alice. 

“Then it does­n’t mat­ter which way you go,” said the Cat. 

 “— so long as I get SOMEWHERE,” Alice added as an explanation. 

 “Oh, you’re sure to do that,” said the Cat, “if you only walk long enough.” 

 ― Lewis Car­roll, Alice in Wonderland 

Avi I Need to Decide Soon

For any par­tic­u­lar piece of writing—novel, short sto­ry, poem, play—there is any amount of com­ment, response, and reflec­tion both pos­i­tive and neg­a­tive. It is rare how­ev­er for the ques­tion to be raised, “WHY did the writer choose to write that?” Because the fact is at some point the writer did decide what to write. 

Over the years I’ve met a num­ber of good writ­ers, and we have this exchange: 

Me: Are you work­ing on any­thing now? 

Author: I’m try­ing to come up with an idea. 

In that regard, I’ve been very lucky inso­far as I rarely lack ideas. The hard part for me is choos­ing which idea I should com­mit to. Let it be admit­ted, a few times I’ve made the wrong choice, that is I’ve start­ed a book, and then aban­doned it because it wasn’t working. 

There are so many rea­sons (or emo­tions) for choos­ing what to write. It’s a vital choice. Speak­ing for myself, if I embark on a new nov­el, I am about to engage in a project that will con­sume my thoughts and ener­gy for at least two years, the aver­age time from first words on paper, to pub­lished book in hand. 

[That said, I worked on Bright Shad­ow, on and off for four­teen years. S.O.R. Losers was writ­ten in one day. The short­est time from the first word on paper to the bound book in hand was Encounter at Eas­t­on. Eleven months.] 

But when I choose what to write means I’m invit­ing a men­tal room­mate to move into my head for a long peri­od. It’s hard to work on a book—it has happened—when you stop enjoy­ing writ­ing it.  But when you enjoy it, I look for­ward to work­ing on it each day.

There are many, many rea­sons for choos­ing a par­tic­u­lar project: It seems excit­ing. It has great pos­si­bil­i­ties. It would be fun. It would be a fas­ci­nat­ing chal­lenge. It would be high­ly com­mer­cial. It’s what my read­ers have been ask­ing for. My read­ers have liked this kind of book before. Nobody has writ­ten about this before. It would make a great sequel. It’s what my pub­lish­er has asked for. My edi­tor sug­gest­ed it. It just feels right.

I’m sure you could add to the list. 

There is anoth­er fun­da­men­tal con­sid­er­a­tion: I make my liv­ing by writ­ing, sup­port­ing myself and my fam­i­ly. So, you may add to the ques­tions above, “If I write the book can I sell it to a publisher?” 

I’m writ­ing this now because I am try­ing to decide upon which project, I shall embark on next. Right now, I have two ideas, ideas that are rad­i­cal­ly dif­fer­ent from the other. 

Know­ing myself the choice I make will be an emo­tion­al one. What do I want to write? 

I need to decide soon. 

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