Genre Trouble: Works and Days

Writing is the only trade I know that has a forty-year apprenticeship.

If you talk to me in ten years, I will tell you that it’s the only trade that has a fifty-year apprenticeship.

We’re never quite there yet. Always, just out of reach, glimmers the next stage of mastery. Only in the last five years has it become clear to me what my Great Subject is, a sticky tangle of work and history and the ugly things in the past that make people deeply, deeply uncomfortable. This afternoon I was re-reading the writing I did preparatory to the revision of my 2010 NaNo novel, The Shape-shifter’s Tale. Character interviews, I called them at the time, but now they look more like independent stories. They all orbit about the same set of events, but changing the point of view changes the story.

This story is about me, because I stand at the center telling it.

Even the tightly-wound villain thinks it’s about him, and close-mouthed though he be, tells more than he thinks.

Currently they reside in a folder called “Future Projects.” I think that each is about to move to a folder of its own, and thence to the wide world.

Some time in the next weeks, I’m going to dig into the old project folders, the ones that are all on paper, and find the skeleton and the fragments for the space opera I began writing three decades ago. That project has wakened to life again, and bids fair to be November’s novel, if it doesn’t demand its time sooner: a locked-room mystery set on a starship, where an immortal dictator has been murdered by someone who is not the assassin assigned to the case. I’ve been reading lots of space opera lately in preparation, as well as in escape from my own Day Job dilemmas.

Thirty years later, the characters are far more in focus. The starship captain is a reservation kid who joined the armed forces to get out of a dead-end place. The assassin is a dedicated professional who inherited the charge from a conspiracy that’s gone on for centuries. And the academics in the picture who looked like heroes and ideals to the teenager who first set out to write this tale have mutated into something altogether murkier and more interesting.

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2 Responses to Genre Trouble: Works and Days

  1. painterwrite says:

    I loved that first line!

  2. Jean Lamb says:

    My son just sent me some old files he discovered on an ancient, shared bookdrive. I had forgotten about some of the story ideas and series ideas (I sometimes think in the multi-book series length). And I said, hey, I can work on these…

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