February 1st, 2008

ozarque figure

Writing -- but not finishing -- things; shameless self-indulgent post...

Every once in a while I get caught up in horror-and-dismay over how many things I've started writing and haven't finished. Like any other writer, I hate that; like any other Ozarker, I hate it even more because I consider it a flaw in my character. The ethic I grew up with -- an ethic that is by and large a myth, but does tend to keep you moving right along -- goes like this: People of good character don't start things that aren't worth finishing, and they always finish what they start.

A dozen of the unfinished things I have lying about -- well, not exactly lying about, because they're in file folders and three-ring binders -- but lying about in the sense that nothing much is happening to them:

1. A science fiction novel about an alternative United States where the sensory system that's preferred and encouraged is touch, the sensory system that's despised and suppressed is sight, and the worst obscenity you can say is "motherlooker." Complete outline and book proposal done; four sample chapters done; and there it sits, waiting. This is the one all the editors who've seen it tell me there's no market for.

2. A "mainstream" novel set on Galveston Island (Texas) that's a love story about a romance between two radical activist Christians. I don't do mainstream fiction often; I don't like the way it boxes me in. But I did this one because I wanted to explore the question of what a relationship of that kind would be like, and I planned for it to be the first book in a series. Complete outline and book proposal (plus series proposal) done; all but the last couple of chapters and the last couple of Polishing Drafts done on the first book; and there it sits.

3, 4, 5, 6. Four science fiction short stories about the future United States where we have a U.S. Corps of Linguists that sends out teams to do linguistics fieldwork with languages not yet written down, including extraterrestrial languages. I love writing these stories -- they don't box me in at all -- and I will finish them eventually if I live long enough. It always takes me forever to write short stories; I deplore that, but it's normal.

7. The revised version of my first Gentle Art of Verbal Self-Defense book. This one doesn't weigh on my conscience; it's lying about because the contract for it still hasn't arrived from Barnes & Noble, and doing anything more with it before I have a contract would be unwise. I expect to finish this one ... but you never know.

8. My new collage book, still with only a working title, that I'm planning to do the way I did the book I posted two samples from a few days ago -- with a collage on every other page, and -- on each facing page -- a science fictional "newspaper clipping." All the collages are done except for the last-minute process of gluing down random corners and trimming random edges; four of the news stories are written. If I'm lucky, I'll have this book finished in time for the Conestoga Art Show in July; if I'm not, it will still be far enough along to show as a work-in-progress. [It's not really accurate to call it "work-in-progress," because making these books is not work -- it's fun. But you can't get away with putting something in a show and calling it "fun-in-progress."]

9. A book about crocheting, with patterns, that I've been working on for at least twenty years now. All the crochet books that I have -- and that's a lot of crochet books -- seem to me to make everything so much harder than it needs to be. [Like so-called "introductory" textbooks in linguistics.] And they seem to me to completely ignore what I consider one of the important aspects of crocheting -- the astonishing amount of money that it can save you. I have half a dozen "classic" books that claim to make crocheting simple and practical and systematic; none of them, in my opinion, is a dog that will hunt. I very much doubt that I'll ever finish this book, but when I die it will be sitting there, and it may be that one or more of my needleworking descendants will finish it.

10. A book of poems about eldering and being old, that I keep adding to in odd moments...

11. The Teacher's Guide to go with my Science Fiction Poetry Handbook and Twenty-One Novel Poems, to be posted to my SFWA website once it's finished...

12. A folderful of half-done science fictional interviews set in that fictional United States where people have begun buying robot dragons -- cyberdragons -- to complete their families, instead of having children. Long ago, one of you asked me to post one of those interviews written from the viewpoint of the "Humankinders" -- the terrorists who are fighting [fighting dirty] to reverse this phenomenon; I keep working on that one, and just haven't been able to get it right yet.

Thinking about all that work that's not finished yet -- and being aware that that's only a partial list! -- makes me itch and ache and fret. I am therefore going to go bake some bread and wax some floors and do a stack of clerical and accounting stuff and work on my March/April newsletters. That will take care of the itching and aching and fretting.