“C” is BACK!

Every writer needs to have a secret project, I think. Something that you’re revved about, something that drives you completely crazy, something that you keep on the hard drive and tinker with and dream about and work on when you’re stuck on the things that are paying you money.

I’ve had a number of secret projects. One became Fire In The Mist, one became Glenraven, one became Midnight Rain.

And this one is “C”. They always have to have a code name, you see. That’s part of the fun. The code name, the sense of mission, the fact that this is something that you’re writing just for you. (Though of course you’ll try to sell it when you’re done; let’s not get crazy.)

Well, “C” has been sitting on the hard drive for a good long time now, ignored while I wrote to deadlines and wrote courses, and I’d pretty much forgotten about it. And then…

Two days ago, I went into the bookstore to wait while my guys went shopping for a Mother’s Day present for me. I didn’t want to read anything, though, didn’t want to look at books, wandered up and down the aisles feeling restless, not seeing the covers of anything on the shelves, just pacing and trying not to be too obtrusive about it. I landed in front of the blank book section, on a whim picked up two large Moleskine notebooks (Hemmingway used them, you know, and they won’t ever let you forget it, either.) Have never owned a Moleskine notebook—my usual notebook costs about a buck and a half at Wal-Mart.

But I went over to the little sit-around-eating-expensive-pastry section of the bookstore and bought a bottled water so I wouldn’t be taking up one of their tables without spending any money on their stuff, and peeled the plastic wrappers off my new notebooks, and opened them up. Sniffed the pages. (Yeah, I’m a page-sniffer.) For the record, Moleskines smell better than Wal-Mart notebooks. For the price you pay, they damned well ought to.

Got out a pen. No clue what I was going to write, but I wanted to put ink on paper. The restlessness was very sure this was what I wanted to do.

And the little voice in the back of my head whispered “C”.

I thought, Why not? It was stuck, it had gone silent on me, but there was still something about it that itched between my shoulder blades and right behind my eyeballs, and I had to think there was something about that story that was worth writing.

c-clusterSo I started with a cluster diagram.

And I started with a question. I got a lot of ideas.

These converted into the better part of one written outline done sitting at that little table at the bookstore, and then a complete second draft outline, very different from the first one (and from the stuff I clustered, which is why I’m willing to post that) which I wrote down in a two-hour white heat yesterday.

I never knew the middle of the story before. I had vague ideas about the ending. Now I have all of that, and I know HOW and I know the REASON WHY. And I can see all the pieces, and how all the pieces interlock.

“Excited” does not begin to describe me at the moment.

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About the author: Novelist, writing teacher, on a mission to reprint my out-of-print books and self-publish my new ones.

18 comments… add one
  • zoomerbeth May 12, 2008 @ 2:15

    PS–I hope any tornados missed you.

  • zoomerbeth May 12, 2008 @ 2:12

    Hi Holly!
    Happy Mother’s Day!

    I have two questions for you. First, when all your (aka my) projects are on “C” level and all of them are pulling equally, how do you (aka I) decide which one to write first?

    Second, I was just looking at the cutaway side view of the Tonk Warship you posted (https://www.hollylisle.com/jpg/tonk_wolfship_side_cutaway.jpg) and I just HAVE to ask… WHY is the bathroom at the back end of the ship??? Am I reading the diagram wrong or is there some other reason? And will it matter? πŸ™‚

    Zoomerbeth

  • Gabriele May 11, 2008 @ 15:24

    I think you could call Kings and Rebels my secret project, only it’s not so secret since I sometimes post snippets. But it’s definitely the one thing I can’t let go despite lots of it sucks because there are some aspects that I love enough to keep returning to it. Since I write out of order and with no outline, I can tamper with scenes when I feel like it.

    It has morphed from historical fiction into an epic alternate historical fantasy sword and sorcery (don’t ask) and will definitely be more than one book. When I’m in a good mood I refer to it as my ASOIAF, when I’m fighting with it, it’s the Ever Meandering Mess I Should Abandon and Finish my Roman Empire Trilogy Instead. πŸ™‚

  • DasteRoad May 11, 2008 @ 13:55

    I’ve never published anything, and I still consider myself an utter amateur at writing, but I think I have a secret project too, which I labeled as “Infinity” back when I first thought of it, together with the dearest friend of mine (when we were, like, 16 or something O_o). I suppose it would fit in your “secret project” definition, because even if more than 10 years have passed, I’m still excited to work upon it now, and it just has an electric vibe for me: I feel I just can’t let it go, even if I’ve fiddled with the plot one hundred times. Recently I’ve started the n-th revision on the first book, and one of the many reasons I have to thank you, Holly, is that this is the first time that I’m doing a revision actually *knowing what I’m doing* πŸ™‚

  • wolverine May 11, 2008 @ 4:08

    I have a ‘secret’ project too. Strangely enough, it’s also got a ‘letter code’; M+D. It’s not 100% secret, as I’ve discussed it on FM occasionally, but it’s the one I’ve kept going back to over about 3-4 years. And it doesn’t matter how long I let it sit, I know I’ll go back to it again.

    Hope you have immense fun and joy with ‘C’!

    Wolverine

  • Cher May 10, 2008 @ 14:32

    Thanks for the inspiration! I have a “C” project as well that I thought of way back when I first started writing and didn’t have the skills to write the story. Now I do. I should get crackin’ huh? πŸ™‚

    Cher

  • klharrds May 10, 2008 @ 3:48

    Hi Holly,

    I have a moleskin or two and I think they are great no matter the money they cost. I tend to write as much on scraps and notes and post-it’s as I do in the actual book so the little folder at the back and the elastic binder are a must for me

    It’s nice to hear that the secret project is up and running again. I loved ‘PR’. Is the new secret branching out into another genre too?

    ICKLE SPOILER – BTW, I just finished Hunting the Corrigan’s Blood and loved it! I want Caddy 2 now damn it! I donÒ€ℒt suppose that the lost love on the brainstorming might be Badger?

    Good Luck with the project.

  • tkeller May 9, 2008 @ 20:36

    Holly,

    I’d never really thought of it as a secret project…but that’s an awesome way to look at it, and I will now do so. Mine is not publishable–it’s a fanfic–but I love writing it and I use it as a way to work on some of my weak points, like fight scenes. (Nothing like a superhero fanfic to make you work on that.)

  • InkGypsy May 9, 2008 @ 15:14

    Secret projects are great for reminding me why I want to keep writing when my current project is busting my brain cells…

    I have to wonder: Genre – Genie in the Bottle – does that mean it’s a ‘surprise genre’? (aka we’ll find out when the book is released)

  • dpace17 May 9, 2008 @ 12:45

    You’ve inspired me to take a look at some old ideas and manuscripts I have and use them for writing exercises but with no particular purpose.

    I’ve never seen or owned a moleskin notebook, I’ll have to look them up when I go to the bookstore next.

  • Beth Morrow May 9, 2008 @ 11:59

    I’ve got a “C” project of my own, lingering on the hard drive and in the back of my mind…and you’ve started the itching to work on it again. Your enthusiasm is contagious

    Keep up the good work πŸ™‚

  • Nicole May 9, 2008 @ 11:35

    Ooh, how exciting! I love secret projects.

    And I have a small Moleskine notebook. It’s a company logoed thing, and was not something I bought, so I don’t feel bad using it. And you know, sometimes it just feels right to be writing in something nice like that. (And they do smell great.)

  • Shawn Hansen May 9, 2008 @ 11:02

    OMG. . .did I just write “to darn fancy” instead of “too darn fancy”?

  • Shawn Hansen May 9, 2008 @ 11:00

    First, for what you spent on those notebooks, you should get a table in the cafe for a month. It should come with an outlet by your feet and a bottomless cup of whatever you feel like drinking.

    (I own one, and it seems to darn fancy to write in. I am in awe of your ability to brainstorm in one. LOL)

    Second, if you feel the slightest urge to write about bulls or bridges or to draw a plot out endlessly, I hope you have the good sense to BURN the moleskins.

  • TinaK May 9, 2008 @ 10:37

    OMG! Please tell me you are going write a time travel. OMG!

  • Geekomancer May 9, 2008 @ 10:36

    Awesome Holly! It just feels so great when you go whole-hog for a writing session.

  • vanity May 9, 2008 @ 10:30

    Oh and I’m glad to hear you found an exciting new (old) project!

    Also, I meant to say “I am NOT ripping you off”… Doh!

  • vanity May 9, 2008 @ 10:28

    Deal with the devil – travel back in time – chance of do over…

    That is *exactly* one of the cornerstones of my current WiP (7k words currently). Fortunately the other bits are completely different, so I don’t have to prove that I am ripping you off, once I manage to complete the book πŸ˜‰

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