False Starts

I’m a planner.  This holds true whether I’m trying to keep a handle on the day-to-day business of life as a single parent, I’m taking a trip, or when I’m writing a story.  Most of the time, story ideas spend a long time gestating inside my mind and taking form before I’m ready to start working on them.  During this period, I take notes and maybe even start to outline.  Then as I’m writing, I’ll make notes to myself about the next sequence of events to make sure I don’t forget anything between writing sessions.

It’s a good method for me.  Every writer has their own that works best for them, though.  One of my writing partners on my website will write entire stories in a rush and end up discarding them because they don’t end up being what he wanted.  I just couldn’t do that.

There are times, though, when an idea strikes me, and I start writing immediately.  Sometimes I’m able to work it out as I go.  The others…well…there’s a folder on my computer called “False,” short for False Starts, where these unfinished fragments go.

Once on this site I posted about running into my high school crush (It was more than a crush, dammit!) randomly in a store many years since I’d last seen her.  It occurred to me at one point that there was a story there.  Hell, there was an entire novel!  In reality, there was about a page and a half.

I write comedic a Star Trek fan fiction series called Star Traks (Yeah yeah. Roll your eyes all you want.  I have fun…dammit.).  At one point I had this idea for a massive crossover between my crew, Pinky and the Brain, and Mystery Science Theater 3000.  It was a two-part story, and I had the whole think completely mapped out, including rewrites of the theme songs of both shows to fit the tale I was telling.  Four pages in, the whole thing fizzled.  I had no idea why at the time, but looking back, I would say it was because the story wasn’t really about my characters.  Whatever the reason, the part of my subconscious that motivates my writing decided that this crossover would not be happening.

My favorite false start never even got that far.  The captain of one of my Star Traks ships (Yes, there’s more than one…dammit.) is a boisterous Brit, and I had a story idea where his ship was called in to assist a planet that had been colonized by the French.  I called it “Planet of the Crepes.”  High comedy, I assure you.  But it never got farther than a few opening lines.  Why?  Because I realized that it’s incredibly hard to write people talking in an overly-thick French accent.  If I was making a TV show, it would have been great.  As prose, not so much.

These false starts annoy the crap out of me because I hate spending time on projects that don’t end up going anywhere.  They have, however, taught me a valuable lesson: keep planning.  Ideas are wonderful.  But an idea isn’t a story.  Turning one into the other is where the real work comes in.

-Alan Decker

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