Tuesday, 13 July 2010

When the Idea Takes Hold

I'm thinking I might have to break the rules. To be specific, one rule. Heinlein's second rule. I don't like to do this. I've always been loyal to Heinlein's five rules (or six if you include the extra one that Robert J Sawyer added, which I do) and they have each served me well. But sometimes... well.

Heinlein's second rule: You must finish what you write.

It's a good one. It stops you flitting about all over the place and ending up with a half-dozen fragments of novels/stories. But you see, I've got this idea. My CERN story. It has an ending and has taken wing. But I'm part way through another that's going stale on me and, well, do I ditch the stagnant story and dive into the CERN story? Or do I act all professional and craft some life into the stale story?

(OR do I procrastinate and spend an afternoon blogging and twittering and thus break every rule, Heinlein's and everyone else's)

The CERN story came to me about six months ago. Just a thread – a concept. So I went to CERN in June and had a look around. How cool does that sound? Real research, hey? Actually, the truth is, we went to Geneva for a weekend break on a cheap Easyjet, and while we were there I persuaded Sarah that an afternoon at the LHC would be solid entertainment, which it turned out to be, for both of us in fact.

Here's me outside building 33, reception, trying to look like some kind of cool particle physicist who knows what the hell's going on in there.

So, having seen CERN I have setting. But the story then evaporated, because our guide told us stuff and the disillusionment monkeys came swinging in, the basic core concept of the story was rubbish.

Then we went to the Wrexham Science Festival and attended a lecture by Prof. Jeff Forshaw, loosely based on the book he's written with Brian Cox called why does E=MC2. Really good stuff. CERN got a mention, as it does every time you go to any lecture on any scientific subject these days, if its only when they're talking about the size of science budgets. But nothing to do with my CERN story, which was, at that point, cold and dead and lying on the mortician's slab.

Then next morning I took a shower. Nothing strange in that. Basic hygiene. But the shower is my idea factory. I have a direct line to the idea reservoir plumbed into the house via copper pipe and the ideas come squirting out of the shower head each morning. (This is, I think, because the shower is the one place on earth where I cannot take my notebook.) So after jotting down the idea on my whiteboard while naked and dripping on the carpet (Sarah is used to this, it happens a lot. She's very patient) the CERN idea took hold, almost fully formed.

And I'm excited. It is a project that I want to start working on right away. I think this is The One. (Actually I think most of my story ideas are The One. This is a feeling that usually persists right up until the third or fourth rejection slip.)

My current project isn't The One. I can grind out a workmanlike effort, but I don't want to grind I want to fly. So, Heinlein #2, I'm sorry, you are a rule I'm about to break. But not forever. I will finish the current project. I will turn back to grinding-out and professionalism and craft.



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