So I took a little time away from this, just under a couple of months. Much of the time it felt like I was being lazy about writing, but I’m not sure that’s fair.
I think if you’re going to do anything creative, there will be times you need to step back from it, remember to breathe, and — this is especially true with writing, I suspect, though not exclusive to it — think about something else.
I’ve had a few things moving around in my head for a long time. The last two months, I’ve been able to do some reorganizing. Call it mental spring cleaning.
There’s been a 37,000 word project I’ve been shopping to agents called The Holler Night. Shopping your work to an agent doesn’t sound like work, but it is. It takes time to do the research, time to craft your query letter, time to make sure what you’ve put together is packaged right. It’s real work, or it should be.
I finished my first T.J. Dawson story, Canebrake, a few months ago. It is just over 30,000 words. I figure somewhere between fifteen and twenty thousand of them are good, maybe only ten thousand really good. I still like the core of the idea around it, but it needs a solid re-write. And then another re-write after that.
The re-writing process for Canebrake has been laborious (again, as it should be), and if I want to get it done, well, I need to get it done. Do I like Canebrake better than The Holler Night? Well, it’s a very different kind of story. I suspect Canebrake is a lot more marketable than The Holler Night (which is informative when it comes to thinking about shopping that to an agent, right?).
I also know T.J. Dawson as a character a lot better, too. That’s incredibly important. Though I worked on the story of The Holler Night for much longer, I’ve more fully developed the character of T.J. Dawson, the police officer in the fictional Florida town of Port Ciega (which is a writer’s un-crazy way of saying “I know that guy better”).
There is also this blog and the continued publication of short stories. I pretty much posted the best from my stock — the historic stuff. So now I need to write new ones, and I will. I think writing the short stories are like the regular oil change and tune-up you get for your car, but for your creative mind instead. It keeps things running smooth, keeps you moving along, allows you to think about other things than the big thing you’re working on.
And speaking of short stories, two I did here have stuck with me a little bit: Rip Crowley in Fox Osage, which is new; and Amelia Dare, Baby Girl Detective, which I did a few years ago. I like the idea of Amelia Dare as maybe a YA kind of thing. It has just always struck me as an original idea and a lot of fun to write.
Rip Crowley is another character I think I may want to learn more about, but what’s fascinating to me is that his stories always come to me from the point of view of his son. I’ve always been fascinated by the Western genre. Not sure I could write it, or write it well, but it sure would be fun to try.
On top of it is the simmering shit stew burbling out of Washington, D.C. I’m a political guy, always have been, though I may not always write about it here, will always be watching, observing, and learning. It takes up a lot of space and a lot of energy, even if you’re not writing about it on a political blog every day.
Finally, I took the kids to Arkansas for Spring Break last week. We met my new niece, Grace, and had a really nice time with my parents, my brother, sister, and my other niece, Hayden. It was good to get away, get out of town, put on a coat and find some fresh perspective.
Now I’m back, and it feels pretty good. Watch for some stories, coming soon.