I tried last year’s NaNoWriMo without planning and without success. The road was clearly not the right one, as I simply abandoned that particular story for no reason other than the oldest trope of writing: that story did not have to be told.
I’ve always thought about writers who say “write the story that must be told” as idiots who were particularly full of themselves (looks in the mirror and thinks he’s shaving the face of god or looks down her leg and thinks she’s shaving the legs of goddess, whatever).
Unfortunately, I’ve found myself in a situation where the story wasn’t supposed to be told and thus it died out. Fizzled, more like. It was not painful to stop writing that story. It did not knock on the doors of my mind as I went to bed. It had no effect on me as I spread the words on the blank page (butter on a hot skillet) and it wouldn’t have an effect on readers either.
So, as I now look back at November 2017 (and my 30th birthday approached) I think “what a colossal waste of energy”. Not time, no. I wasted no time there, because I learned something very important: writing for the sake of writing goes nowhere. Or rather, writing something you think is right is not always right.
Feeling is a big part of my writing. I want to tell stories and imagine stories that will make others enjoy it. I started writing for myself, to keep those stories in my possession so I could always return to them (ironically i lost my first ever manuscript). Now I think: we, as a community of readers, need certain stories to be told. We lack some stories.
There are no more simple and direct stories. No more of those classic adventures that made you excited and made you clap your hands as the story closed. Now we have epic sagas that are longer and longer than any fictional story should be. And I blame Tolkien (though Greeks are to be blamed for this with their heroes and whatnot).
Nowadays every writer wants to publish their Magnum Opus right off the bat, trying to sell an idea that is either a) been used before; b) so old we can’t even trace its origins or c) it’s just bad. (please use the correct inflection of bad in your mind. It’s very bad.)
So, I thought, and still do: where are the simple times? The simple adventures? Movies become grander and grander. Games, comics, fantasy football, all sorts of entertainment. Why is this hunger so ever growing? Is it the consumer of entertainment? Or is it the producer stuffing our minds with escapes from reality that are so absurdly far fetched that things just stop being possible?
I long for the stories that are simple and direct, that do not connect to others so deeply that you cannot read the third book of the author without having read the first and the second. Jesus, stop!
But back to the original idea of this post: Empty words. Some stories just need to be told and they click with you and the audience and those are the good stories. I would even go so far as to say that this is actually the one thing that is still going, but the size of these is colossal. Just relax, authors. Write your stories and see where it goes. It doesn’t need to be a giant epic. It can be as simple as going after a dragon’s treasure, as quick as unveiling the tomb of an ancient pharaoh, as direct as stopping the drug lord from bringing in a new super cocaine into the streets and poison the children of the community.
And yet, every time I step into a book store, I never find an individual story. One that begins and ends in a single volume. There’s always another quest, always another adventure, another drug lord, another tomb, another treasure.
Just let the adventurers rest. Let them go.
Next time you start writing a story, think: Does this story need to be told?