Sunday, November 25, 2001
Today I did not work on the new novel. This past week, I've been trying very hard to make myself devote at least an hour or two a day to making notes for the prologue and first three chapters (which is a marked departure from my usual habit of working without a net). As a result, I now have nine pages of notes. But there's nothing new from today.
Instead, I slogged dutifully ahead in a search for the ending of a short story. I used to write short stories that were, in fact, short. The last year or so, they've been getting longer and longer, even spawning the "novella" (God, but I detest that word, though not quite as much as "novellette") which will be included in Trilobite: The Writing of Threshold , "Les Fleurs Empoisonnees" (and, yes, I know there ought to be an acute accent on the next to last "e" in "empoisonnees," but I still haven't remembered how to place an acute accent in HTML, and yes, this is being written in HTML, groan).
Very rarely have I thought of the ending to a story before I began writing it ("To This Water" was a notable exception). I seem to have to find it. When I was inclined to be a little more romantic about my writing, back before deadlines and rewrites and proposals and such, I would say that I was, essentially, following fictional events as they unfolded in my mind, as they led me to their logical ending. Or at least the place where I would stop the narrative. I remember trying to explain this process to my first editor at Vertigo when I was trying to write my first story proposal for her. "How can I tell you the story," I said. "I don't know what's going to happen." "Why?" she asked. "Because I haven't written it yet," I said. She didn't buy it and since then I've written dozens of proposals for Vertigo, though my scripts often do not follow them very closely. It seems to make editors happy just to know that you understand that the story has to lead somewhere and end somewhere. There are proposals I've rewritten seven or eight times. I think this is why I was able to have a tooth filled last spring with no anesthesia.
Anyway, I started this particular story on September 14th, and two months (and 5,000 words) later I still haven't found the damn ending (I have written other things in the interim, thank goodness). I need to finish it in the next two days in order to get it to London before the deadline, and also because I have to spend most of next week in a museum collection photographing and measuring mosasaur bones, and then I have to write the second part of Bast: Eternity Game for The Sandman Presents, and then, finally, it'll be time to begin the new novel. The name of the story, for future reference, is "From Cabinet 34, Drawer 6," and it's a bit of Lovecraftiness (Thank you again for that, Clay) involving old monster movies and misplaced fossils. I've given it up for dead several times, this story. It keeps coming back to life. It keeps insisting that I finish it. It has determination, even if it doesn't seem to have an ending.
Oh, before I sign off for the night, I should plug Wrong Things, the collection I did with Poppy Z. Brite. It's out now, available directly from the publisher, Subterranean Press, and online, and probably even a few bookstores. One story by me, one by Poppy, and a collaboration, with exquisite black and white illustrations and cover art by Richard Kirk (who also illustrated Tales of Pain and Wonder and my second solo collection, forthcoming from Subterranean Press, From Weird and Distant Shores). It's a very attractive little book of which I am extremely proud. The only bad thing the Publisher's Weekly reviewer had to say about it was that our collaborative story should have been longer. Which is to say, I guess, that she thinks we found the ending too soon.