by Brian Mullen
Today I finished rewrite number three of my current project. It's a novella, my second now, and it's about to go into a tiny and very short limbo while my critique group colleagues give the first three chapters some scrutiny. That's about three weeks from now and it's possible I may find a significant rewrite is in order before part two can be submitted. It's also possible I'm on the right track and comments will be relatively easy to fix. Being as optomistic as possible means the novella will not be taking up significant portions of my time for the next several months.
My first novella is in a larger limbo having been submitted for a contest; it'll be several more months before I decide if that needs more work. In the meantime I'm left with a choice: look forward or look backward.
I have a collection of short stories that I haven't touched since January 30, 2006 when I compiled them into a spiral-bound book. I read portions of it earlier this week and I found myself no longer as impressed with them as I was when I printed them out. They need work. But is that where I should focus my efforts?
During my last vacation, a cruise along Alaska's inner passage, I had the opportunity to hear two speeches given by a retired Royal Canadian Mounted Police officer about the history of that organization and it has inspired parts of a mystery - namely main character and setting. I have no idea what the mystery would be about. Is that the next project for me?
About a year ago, I saw a movie that gave me lots to think about - though not what the filmmakers meant, I'm sure. It was a dystopia - a story set in a significantly less than perfect future - and it got me to thinking: why aren't there any dystopian comedies? Dystopias are such downers you'd think someone'd be itching to make a funny one. I came up with many, MANY ideas for such a book - is it time to take a stab at it?
Last year I found a television show I could really get into - namely, Heroes. It's the kind of show I'd like to write. One night after watching a marathon, I thought of a story arc that I think would make a pretty good season. While I don't have any hopes of selling it to Hollywood, television shows of the sci-fi genre do tend to have spin-off novels. Star Trek and Star Wars each have several hundred, and I've seen them for Quantum Leap, Babylon 5, X-Files and even Deep Sea Quest - just to name a few. Is this something I should pursue?
Then there's my very, very first attempt at a mystery novel. Man, does that bad boy need work. It needs a complete overhaul in plot, characters and pacing. Has my progress with my other works prepared me to tackle that problem child now?
There's even a thriller I've been mentally playing with for a couple years now that I think has strong possibilities. I haven't plotted it out completely yet but I think I know pretty much how it'll go. Is now the time?
I should, and do, feel blessed that I have enough ideas to keep me in front of my computer for several years to come. I also know how I'll ultimately handle this decision - I'll let fate decide for me. I'll write all the titles on strips of paper, fold them and draw one out of a hat. It's a process that's worked well for me in the past - most of those short stories were written in the order fate dictated.
But I'll not choose today or tomorrow. I'm going to enjoy this weekend. I'm going to enjoy imagining all the possibilities. It's fun to wonder what's next.