Today, I spent the afternoon making a start on The Weighing of the Heart, a novella that I hope you’ll be reading this time next year. I’ve started writing this story before, but it was no good, so I scrapped it and am starting over. Bits of the previous version are dribbling through (which is fine – if it’s good enough to still be in my brain, it can stay), but mostly this is a brand new start. It’s going to have ancient rituals in it, and Dubai, and dog things, and old gods. So far I’m a couple of thousand words in, writing longhand, and having a great time.
This story will be my Saturday project for the next couple of months. I’m busy with a novel during the week, and short stories on Sundays, but every Saturday I’ll be dropping those and using what time I can squeeze from the day to fill this book.
A lot of writers start a story and stick with it until they’re done, letting nothing else get in the way. I’ve tried to work like that, but it’s too frustrating. There are a lot of things I want to write, and they get impatient. I find myself thinking about one thing when I should be doing the other. Letting myself work on two or three things at once eases the frustration I get at not being fast enough to get to the next thing. It also gives me a break from each story without my having to actually stop writing – writing long fiction is draining sometimes, and switching projects for a day or two seems to keep me from burning out.
It’s taken me a long time to work that out. I used to feel that if I took a break from writing one story, I was somehow failing as a writer. The very fact of needing a break made me feel like I wasn’t trying hard enough, and I’d stick with it until I imploded, getting less and less done each session. Breaking the week up a little lets me go back into each project a bit refreshed.
These two big projects should also benefit from being completely different in tone. This novella is crazy fun. It’s pulpy, big, and colourful. The novel has a more sombre tone, and a more serious intent. It’s fun to write too in its way, but is also grimmer by far. It’s full of characters that reflect parts of me I’m not sure I get on with very well – the alcoholic, the obsessive, the manipulator – and while exploring them is liberating, it’s good to take a break and just go a bit mental with the novella.
So, a good day writing. It’s Short Story Sunday tomorrow, and I’m finishing a tale a started last week. That one’s fun too, and with luck I’ll get it sent off to a waiting editor next week. Starting stuff is always fun, but finishing is even better.
Currently reading (novel): The Sunne in Splendour by Sharon Kay Penman
Currently reading (novel): The Festival of Death by Jonathan Morris
Currently reading (anthology): Chiral Mad, edited by Michael Bailey
Currently reading (anthology): The Weird: A Compendium of Strange and Dark Stores, edited by Anne and Jeff Vandermeer
Currently reading (non-fiction): The Anatomy Murders by Lisa Rosner