My friend Susan had an interesting post about the trick of choosing what to write next. I've always found this interesting, and often think of it in terms of momentum; but, since Susan loves sci-fi, today I'm gonna talk about it in terms of gravity.
How do we choose what to write next?
Sometimes things choose us, or it is, at least, a shared responsibility. I'm one of those writers who always has a lot of story ideas, a lot of books (or short stories) I want to write. How to choose (or be chosen)?
The different stories, to me, are like planets. Each is its own world; some are full of life, teeming with living things, with interlocked ecosystems, while others are dead and inert - still others are just starting to bloom, deep chemical processes ripening beneath the surface and spawning a series of evolutional changes. And each of these planets has a gravity, a pull, a specific density working on the vast space around it.
My brain (my soul, my muse, my whatever) is like a comet whizzing by this clustered system of planetary bodies. Each one attracts me, swings me close, drawing me in. And yet I am hurtling fast indeed. Perhaps I fly close to a small one (short story) and spin once around it and then away. So little time is needed.
A novel, on the other hand, is something else entirely. It is not quick, or easy. You cannot whiz by a vast planet and take it all in, translate it for the world you left behind and to which you wish to return. To map such a planet you must enter orbit. You must circle again and again, each time sharpening your view, learning more, recording deeper impressions.
A novel idea requires a deep gravity if it is to reach fruition, an incredible pull. If it's not strong enough, this pull, my little comet will slip away into space befoe the story is ever completed.
And the interesting thing about these planets is that their gravity changes. So strange! One novel I'm revising (in theory) had an idea with a steep gravity at first, one that pulled me in, started my surveying passes from orbit, mapping out ideas and future trajectories. And yet there were problems, and the planet shrank, became porous and soft and thin, its gravity weakening until I was slung away, dragged off by the gravity of a monster red planet that seemed to suck up space all around it, drinking in vast seas of matter and growing and growing and growing.
I mapped that world (and am still mapping it), and yet on a service run back to the ol' home world (everyone needs a vacation now and again) I passed by that first planet once more. And in an instant the planet became dense and strong, its weight fastening me into orbit. I had inadvertently solved the problems that once hampered me, and now the planet had the requisite weight to keep hold of me for the duration.
The terrestrial surveys are almost complete.
And for you? What has the most weight? What's drawing you in right now to that wonderful orbit overlooking the genesis of a strange new world?