Ideas vs Things
I have many ideas and many plans. All the time, I get ideas about things and make plans to do things. Some of them are relatively mundane, like build my Death Star Legos, and others of them are quite large, like I hope to someday build my own home (while hire builders, since I’ll probably screw up the Lego Death Star and it comes with instructions).
Back, way back when, a whole two years, when I first started getting published and before that, I would blog about any IDEA I had. I would say all kinds of things, but if there’s one thing I like, it’s making declarative statements.
Some of my ideas were mundane – like I have a Back to the Future marathon – but sometimes my ideas included books – like how I was going to write a graphic novel about cannibal unicorns.
Before I had people reading my blog and my books, it really didn’t matter what I said. The only people who reading it were my friends, and they understand that my “What I Say” and “What I’ll Actually Do” category don’t always align.
It’s not that I’m a bad person (or at least, I’d like to think I’m not a bad person). It’s that I often don’t understand how time works or much work things require or I forget how much I enjoy sleeping. I will say things like, “I’ll finish that book by next week,” when I haven’t even started it, because I think I can. Theoretically, there is enough time do it. Realistically, my brain can’t always handle that much of a load.
The point is that in the beginning, when I was newbie writing, I frequently made the mistake of telling you what “my ideas” were. I would tell you IDEAS I had for stories, or hopes I had for novels, or plans I had for this and that.
It hadn’t yet occurred to me that people were paying attention and didn’t know that nothing’s concrete until it’s an actual THING. When it’s an IDEA, anything can happen. It also didn’t occur to me that people would be let down if I just dropped an IDEA because I had been talking for a very, very, very, very long time, and nobody had been paying attention, so even when people said they cared and were listening, I didn’t really believe them
This is just the way I’ve always worked. I’ve written about 100+ outlines in my life and started at least 50 different novels and written probably around 150 short stories. Hell, I’ve finished over a dozen novels I’ll never publish because they’re bad.
I did not realize that when I was talking to you about my life, my process, my IDEAS that I was unintentionally setting you up to be letdown. I was just talking, sharing, having a conversation, and it did not occur to me that people would be hurt by this information. I didn’t know anyone even cared that much.
I’m sure that I’m not the only writer who has gotten ideas and started working on them and then went, “Well. No.” Neil Gaiman, in fact, began working on the idea for The Graveyard Book in 1985 but didn’t publish it until 2008. Of course, he had the good sense not to blog about in 1985 and get everyone all excited and then repeatedly let them down for the next 23 years by not releasing The Graveyard Book.
I think we can all agree that Neil Gaiman is smarter than me.
But the point is that’s just how it goes. Sometimes ideas don’t make it past the conceptual phase. Sometimes they make it to almost novels. And sometimes they make it all the way into entire novels before the writer realizes they’re terrible.
And so, without Neil Gaiman’s insight, I have made the mistake in the past of telling you all about IDEAS that have never come into fruition. Not because I intended to mislead you or betray or just fuck with you. Because I in good faith was talking about something that I believed would change from an IDEA to a THING.
Honalee was one such foible. If you don’t know what it was, that’s because I took down most of the stuff for. Honalee was intended to be the first book in a YA series about a girl named Hazel and she’s a witch. I’d finished Honalee sometime in 2010 and I was getting ready to publish it.
It was at this point, after I talked about it as being one of my next books to come out, I realized that it was really quite bad. A lot of it felt redundant of my other books and too predictable and I knew then that as the concept for a series it wouldn’t work. There were glimmers of hope and some genuinely interesting bits to it, so I tried to rework it, but eventually I realized that it was just a lost cause. It was not a good book.
I cannot emphasize that enough. The reason Honalee has never and will never be published is because it’s not a good book.
However, the good parts of Honalee – some of the interesting things that were working and even most of one of the characters (Molly) – made it into the Watersong series. I’ve done that before, and I’ll do it again, I’m sure. I try out in idea, but some of it doesn’t work. I scrap the bad parts and rework it as something else.
That brings me to the real moral of this story. Occasionally I still get questions about Honalee. Most are just curious, but sometimes I get enraged people, demanding to know where this book is that I promised them (which honestly, I find a bit weird, since all they really had was a pretty cover and a vague synopsis).
I have realized the error of my ways. I cannot discuss IDEAS with you because not all IDEAS will becomes THINGS, and if you are expecting a THING, you get sad and angry when that THINGS is not delivered. That makes sense, and I apologize for the times in the past when I have unintentionally let you down.
It is still a very strange thing to me have a readership, and I don’t always say the right things or do the right things. I’m learning as I go along, but everything I do, I honestly do with the best of intentions.
But this brings me to the point of the blog. I’m not going to tell you about IDEAS anymore – only THINGS. An IDEA becomes a THING when it’s finished and has a publication date. Anytime before that, it’s just an IDEA. I will not publish the first book in the series until all the books in the series have been written, so I can always tell you when the next one will be out.
To put it in perspective, I’ve written 7 outlines for novels in the past 8 months, but I haven’t told you about any of them. Because I know that not all IDEAS become THINGS, and I don’t want you to get excited for something that isn’t going to happen.
So, if you’re asking me about a project or a book or something, and I say “I don’t know” or don’t answer you, it’s because it’s still in the IDEA part and I don’t want to let you down. I will only talk about it when it’s a THING. So me not answering is me not being glib or a bitch or a blowing you off or something other horrible thing you think I am. It’s because I’ve learned my lesson.
So please, be patient. And the very second it’s officially a THING, I promise I will tell you about it. But yelling at me and nagging me constantly doesn’t make it become a THING any faster. In fact, it slows down the process because I get distracted.
Meanwhile, all four books in the Watersong series are officially THINGS, and I might have another smaller bonus THING to tell you about in the near future, but I can’t say more than that. I have other IDEAS in the works, but hopefully, soon they will be THINGS, and then I can tell you about them, too.
Until then, I apologize for letting you down with past IDEAS, but I promise to do my hardest to not let you down with any THINGS in the future.