The Next Story
How long has it been since I have written anything from start to finish?
Far too long.
“Post Marked Piper’s Reach” was published in July this year. It was written seven years ago.
What has happened in-between? Between 2013 and 2018, the grounds lay fallow. I started a verse novel. Began the drafting and ideas for a novella. Started collaborating with Jodi and Rus on a novel. At the end of 2018 I finished the draft of a novella that will exist in the Piper’s Reach world but be separate from it. It’s now awaiting an edit. And in-between all of this, I have penned scraps of sentences and handwritten pieces for Instagram, and random poems for Twitter and Facebook.
I have not sat down to write for a variety of reasons: moving house, ill health, work commitments. Other personal reasons. I read books. Kept a record of what I had read and challenged myself to improve on it. Kept adding to the compost heap.
But nothing complete or completed.
Looking back on the past few years it appears I’ve been throwing manure on the compost heap in the hope something other than tomatoes will sprout from the pile of grass clippings, vegetable scraps and garden trimmings. At some point you have to turn the soil, keep turning it, shovel it around the base of an idea and see what grows.
Those works in progress mentioned above have sat idle but I return to them occasionally, turning the soil and adding more thought to them.
The question is always of, “What next?”
This year was a focus on getting Piper’s Reach into the world and to an audience. Publication was the end of the cycle and a new cycle has to begin.
But where to begin with that new cycle?
In my head, and in my planning, it is the novella, followed by the verse novel and working with Jodi and Rus to finish our collaborative novel, plans for a collaborative novel with Rus, and thinking of another collaboration with Jodi.
Left to my own devices I have to think about the next story. Snippets of sentences and half-formed paragraphs are easy. Bringing them to fruition is difficult. I write better in collaboration as iron sharpens iron. But I had to prove to myself I can do it by myself. The novella was the first step. My verse novel will be the next step after that. For myself, I am unsure. The horizon is a long way off.
But I see a way forward. Beyond plans for completing and finishing, there is the desire to write again. I have felt blocked lately in writing but I think I have a way forward: writing my way into it.
I’ll start by writing anything.
With reckless care for sense or understanding.
To write without fear or favour.
To play with language and experiment with words because no one else will see it.
The freedom of not having eyes to cast a glance and question the structure or word choice.
But there is something else that sits with me in terms of thinking about the next story: Why do I want to tell this story?
This is what is pushing me lately. I have a couple of unfinished works on my computer and I circle back to them from time to time to ask why do I want to tell this story? Have I worked out what the story is in order to tell it? The same question applies to my novella and verse novel because the question will help frame the narrative and edits in the future.
The “why” will be the driving force to keep me throwing compost onto the heap and tilling the soil.
The next story will always be there.