I have taught so many wonderful writing students over the years, and I always seem to know the answers to their problems (sometimes they don’t listen to my solutions… at first). So it embarrasses me greatly to admit that I’ve been struggling with my own writing for close to six months now. Dr Kim can’ t even diagnose herself, let alone write an appropriate prescription. I don’t know what brought it on. Perhaps it was publishing book #20 Gold Dust. A milestone–like those milestone birthdays–making me take stock.
The problem is, I have a surfeit of Really Good Ideas. And because I write across so many genres now, I don’t know quite where to throw my energy. Fab idea for children’s book time-travelling series. Cool idea for Brisbane goth YA novel. Desperate keen to write a chicklit all-girl band story. But I’ve narrowed it down to two:
An adult historical fantasy novel, working title “The Garden of the Mad King”, set in an alternative version of Anglo-Saxon England, about five daughters of a tribal warlord and the different paths they take when their father grows too ill to rule.
A Kimberley Freeman saga, working title “The Field of Clouds”, about a poor immigrant woman in Tasmania in the 1920s who goes about creating a fashion empire; and her grand-daughter in the present–fleeing a broken relationship and career in London–who inherits her grandmother’s house and all her hidden secrets.
I really can’t decide which one first. On the one hand, the fantasy novel speaks to my soul on so many levels. Get back to the magic, Kim, it says. But the work involved is huuuuge, and there’s 2 books in there I just know it (though trying to deny it to self). On the other hand, the Kimberley Freeman beckons like a crisp new beach-read novel. Let’s have fun, it says Let’s lie on the beach and get lost in it! Frocks! Shoes! Glamour! (Though, admittedly, hard to type on the beach).
There are other pros and cons to both, some involving contractual obligations, some involving the ongoing viability of my membership to the SF community, some involving how tired I always am because my children wake before six every morning.
But the solution made itself clear to me just the other night. I know it sounds like madness, but listen to this.
I’m going to write… BOTH! Yes, I’m going to write the first chapter of each over the next few weeks. Then if I still can’t choose, I’ll write the second chapter of each. And so on. I’ve always sworn I couldn’t write two books at once, but desperate times call for desperate measures. And I do have the luxury of both a well-paying part-time job and a stay of execution on an imminent deadline.
Of course, it could all be a disaster and, if it is, you’ll hear it here first. But I think the most important thing of all is that I write something. I get very grumpy if I’m not writing and if that was you I shouted at when you took my spot at Toowong Village car park last week I’m very sorry. But I did have my blinker on first.
Wish me luck.
* my favourite version of this line is the one in the movie Barton Fink when two men come across the beheaded corpse of a doctor: “Physician, heal thyself.” “Good luck with no f**kin’ head.”