I’ve mentioned a few times my belief that the “next story” is always better. The field is wide open, the possibilities endless, and the lessons learned from writing the last story still (theoretically) fresh in your mind.
That blank sheet of paper is an exciting prospect to a writer. The best comparison I can offer is that feeling when, standing on top of a ridge, I look down over a place I’ve never seen or hiked…a fresh place, untrailed, unexplored, and empty. A place of infinite possibilities.
It’s not mine, not yet. No, it’s not mine until I have hiked it, until I have learned the lay of the land.
Just like the next story.
It’s not mine until I frame it and prep it, until I’ve explored it’s depths and breadth. Until I know the story and the characters like I know that no-longer-fresh valley…
Even as I write Silence — slowly…oh so slowly…and oh so behind schedule* — I am starting to prep and work through the initial legwork for the “next” story. It’s fresh, it’s new, and it very much provides a nice contrast…
*Douglas Adams’ brilliant comment on deadlines: “I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by.”
Writing Connor’s story gives me an outlet, and a flow of words and thoughts that touch the darker areas of my mind and spirit. But you can only be dark and gritty for so long. The world is not a paradise, nor a particularly friendly place, but acknowledging and dwelling in the dark places can be a tough weight to bear if that is all you have. And believe me, that weight can become too much: in writing Wrath, the dark was all I had. I won’t repeat that.
So, although I’m still writing in the dark, I let in the sun in other ways…
My hiking and camping I have mentioned before. Without that outlet, the dark would threaten to engulf completely. But, beyond that, letting in the sun comes down to that simplest of things — it comes down to dreaming.
It comes down to blank paper, and a whole new world. New characters, new problems, and new tone. New possibilities…and new stories that I want to make mine.
I have no story, not yet. I have a world, and some dynamics and inspiration to play with. I have a handful of (potential) characters, and hints of the context and history that will eventually give rise to the story itself.
I have dreams… No, that’s not it, not exactly. I have new dreams…new dreams and blank paper.
No matter what has happened before, no matter what happens now, the next story is always better. And, for a writer, is there a better dream than that?