Tuesday, August 02, 2011

Might Haves

I saw this graffiti today while walking the streets of an old city:

Since it's a quotation from a writer this made me very happy. I also let it percolate in my head all afternoon, and eventually distilled it to this: It's never too late to write what you might have been writing.

It's easy to get discouraged and give up on a story that you think you can't write, or you're convinced you can't sell, or for whatever reason just scares the bejesus out of you. The vision is there, the story is waiting, and suddenly your spine turns into pudding.

I think most of the stories we don't write turn into vague regrets, but a few become ghosts that follow us and haunt us. I try to write mine into short stories whenever I can, just to exorcise the little demons, but there are a couple that won't work as anything but novel-length works. With my schedule I already have to be very selective about what I write; I can't afford to waste my energy on a project that worries me more than it excites me (and even as I write that, I feel like I'm making excuses. If I really wanted to, I could make the time.)

I'd say of all the might-have-written novels in my head, there are four that someday I would like to get over my fear and get them down on the page. Even if the only person who ever reads them is me. I don't know if I'm ready to say I'm planning to write them; maybe they need to haunt me a bit more.

How do you handle your might-have-written stories? Let us know in comments.


  1. Frankly, I'm not sure who's handling who.
    But I have them in short form in files. Or synopses. Or yes, they linger in my head and whisper periodically. Sometimes a single word or image will bring them up. Sometimes even a dream.
    And I feel a little guilty, because I'm pretty sure they have the potential to be fully fleshed out. I'm the problem.

  2. Make notes. Think. Brood. If they keep coming back at me, I'll try to write them. Sooner or later. One of the books that kept coming back at me, I eventually made myself write-it was THROUGH THE VEIL.

    There are a bunch of other ones, though. I want to get them on paper, too.

  3. Actually, I try not to do this, though I have ideas I haven't found the time to write that haunt me. With the ones that disturb, I've learned they need to be written now. They're powerful now. When I finally get around to them, they might have lost whatever emotions they were driven by. I used to avoid writing the big stories because I didn't think I was a good enough writer to do them justice, only to find when I did write them I'd lost the fire that had driven them. Instead, now I write the best version I can now, with the understanding that I'm laying the groundwork I will later have the skill to bring to life.

  4. I just recently decided to start working on the book that haunts me. I'm alternating between excitement and terror at the moment.

  5. For me it depends on the idea. Some of them will go away on their own after a while. Others grab me by the throat, take over my thoughts and demand to be written now. The only way to deal with those is to write them or at least write those scenes that are most vivid in my mind. And yes, it can be annoying if the story that grabs you belongs to a genre you don't normally write.

  6. Sometimes it takes awhile, and then sometimes especially the flash fiction and memoir types hit me over the head and demand to be written.


  7. I have a few of those, but one in particular. I don't really know HOW to handle it... It's a story that definitely needs to be a novel, but it feels too 'big' for me. I don't think I'm good enough, yet.

    I've made some notes, but when I think of writing it I freeze up. I hope I can exorcise it, one day.

  8. I usually at least get the idea on paper. Sometimes, it's a paragraph or two, sometimes a whole chapter. Then I leave them to work on my current WIP-of-the-moment. If I can go back to it a few weeks later and still remember everything about it, I'll work on it. If not, it goes in a dead file. But someone told me long ago, never, ever delete anything. You never know when it might be usable.

  9. Love this. Needed to hear it.

  10. That's a good one, but my favorite is "Either write something worth reading or do something worth writing."
    – Benjamin Franklin

  11. I just let 'em sit in my head until I get back to them. They're not going anywhere. In fact, my current project is a recasting of a notion I had years ago, when I first tried writing it as...believe it or not...Star Wars fan fiction. Of course, Han and Leia are nowhere in sight this time, but the story is still there!


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