Well, yes. Sorta. I do have to outline, and by New Year’s Eve, I want everything I plan to write next year outlined and ready. There are those novellas, the final Amargosa novel, and the follow-up to the crime novel my lady is trying to get me to sell to a trad publisher.
But what am I writing?
Which is also not true. I’m writing a story you’re never going to read. Then I’m going to resume work on another story you’re not going to read. I call this riffing. It’s something I do to keep the writing muscles limber.
“Gee, TS, have you considered writing short stories and maybe, yanno, selling them?”
Yeah, that’s probably why I don’t get invited to too many anthologies. Well, no anthos. The editor from Spacedock hit me up for one before he left. I digress. And yeah, I need to do some writing prompts and combing ralan.com for markets.
But riffing is what I do to keep writing original words. It’s never intended to be published. It’s for me and me alone. Some of it I might share with a couple of friends. It started when I thought I was done writing forever about seven or eight years ago. I had not been able to sell a novel I wrote as Jim Winter called Road Rules. I was frankly tired, and publishing is a grind. Some of the reasons novels are rejected do border on the absurd, and I was sick of the process. Screw this. I don’t need the aggravation for no payoff. So I packed it in.
But a funny thing happened to me. I got the itch to write again. But what to write? I started writing the fictional autobiography of a rock star a friend of mine and I dubbed Himself. He was actually a fantasy version of me when I was younger and thought I might have a future as a musician. (Note to self: Learn to play an instrument before entertaining that fantasy again. Air guitar doesn’t cut it.) So if Mr. Famous Me interacted with everyone from The Beatles and the Stones to members of Steely Dan to the Foo Fighters (OK, that part got added much later), how did he really do it? I started after listening to Anthony Keitis’s memoir Scar Tissue on audio. Like any good rocker, he (with a new name) started with his birth and had a childhood not unlike my own except… Well, he learned an instrument. And he had a sister. And he so got laid a lot in high school. He went to Vietnam. He became a recording engineer. He accidentally became a rocker. He did a lot of crazy stuff I never thought he would.
And his time in late 60s London kept me typing for a total of fourteen hours over one weekend resulting in 17,000 words. The floodgates had reopened. Soon, I dug out Holland Bay, the crime fiction epic I keep talking about here. I rewrote that monster from its muddled, 105,000-word mess to a more manageable 90,000-word second draft. I started writing science fiction. Because I could.
And the rocker in my head? He finally tapped out after 589 single-spaced pages, over 345,000 words. Now I write just whatever. Maybe something will come of it, but I usually end up using bits and pieces in other stuff. The rocker dude? He caught his son smoking weed during the early 1980s, and instead of telling him to just say no, finished the joint with him and said, “Now, don’t let me catch you doing that again. It’s why I was such a rotten father.” Mind you, the amount of that particular substance I’ve indulged in is barely enough for a possession charge in most states and not worth selling in places where it’s legal. But this wasn’t me anymore. This was a character I let out of my head and run free.
And he let me write again. So what I write now is more about playing with existing things both my own and what others might have written, twisting them, making them into something different. And then it gets put aside, sometimes even deleted. (I’ve written horror stories that should never ever see the light of day and won’t, thanks be to Shift-Delete in Windows.)
So just like musicians have to practice to stay sharp and improve, writers have to do things that will never see the light of day so what they do write for publication is better when it see the light of day.