Friday, March 25, 2005

Books I'll Never Finish

People ask, "Where do you get your ideas?" Actually, I've never had trouble coming up with ideas. My problem has always been finding the time to develop on my ideas into finished work. With 5 kids, a fulltime day job, and a surplusage of Other Commitments, writing time is, for me, always extremely difficult to come by.

As an unintended side-effect of this, I've accumulated quite a sizable collection of false starts, rough drafts, and idea synopses that I always intended to get back to "later." In the early days, when I wrote on a Smith-Corona typewriter and did my computation with a slide rule, this collection fit into one bulging file folder. Later, it expanded to fill an entire bankers archive box.

Now, after 25 years of working on computers, I have many, many, many gigabytes of false starts lying around here, cluttering up the place, and as a general rule, completely useless to me. Some are on floppy disks in formats readable only by machines and programs long since defunct. Others are on data tapes, from back in the days when hard drives were expensive, small, and unreliable and I backed mine up religiously. Yet more did get dumped out to dot-matrix printout, so at least they're human-readable, but I've got entire filing cabinets full of the stuff. For example, a cursory scan of the Unfinished Idea dumpster reveals:

From Here to Maternity
"My child, you have your mother's mind. Would you please give it back?"

Road Trip
So, like, who needs another self-absorbed Baby Boomer's semi-autobiographical novel about life in 1970?

Ditto for the semi-autobiographical novel about the rock band on tour, especially one that reads like 200 Motels only without humor. This one actually had at least three or four titles, but I can't remember the last one, which was the only good one.

Double Exposure
Murder mystery about a freelance photographer who gets involved with a pair of gorgeous identical twins, one of whom is a top model and other a serial killer. (Hey! See how this complicates DNA evidence? Clever, huh?) This one could probably be a very commercial property for someone else -- if nothing else, think of the made-for-TV movie -- but I just couldn't sustain my own interest. I enjoy reading mysteries. I've even sold a few short stories. But I just can't finish writing a mystery novel, because I know how it ends. (Funny, innit, that knowing the ending is important for me when writing sci-fi, but ruins it when I'm trying to write mystery?)

Bogen's Vampire
So I got a little smarter and tried to write a novel about a guy in a rock band on tour who discovers their new road manager is actually a gorgeous vampire (not a twin, sadly), but it quickly degraded into a series of Beavis & Butthead-grade jokes. It probably would have worked if I'd tried to do it as a comedy in the first place but by the time I realized that, it was too late to start over.

Beachhead Mecca
Very cool Heinlein-ish alien invasion novel, with just one teensy problem; whoever writes it is going to spend the rest of his life under a fatwa. Like I need that.

And finally, my favorite novel that I'm never actually going to write:

June, 1943: Acting in defiance of Hitler's orders, Field Marshal Erich von Manstein launches his attack against the Kursk salient two weeks early, catching the Red Army unprepared and unreinforced. While this action does not change the general outcome of events on the Eastern Front, it delays the Soviet advance just long enough for the Germans to get the Arado 234B jet bomber into full production. This in turn means the bomb racks are left off the Me-262 and it gets used as the air superiority fighter it was clearly meant to be, which changes the entire complexion of the 1944 air war over Europe. D-Day is delayed by two months; the American B-29 Superfortresses are deployed to England, not Okinawa; the first atomic bomb is dropped on Berlin, not Hiroshima; and Russian and Western Allied armies meet at the Rhine, not the Elbe.

Fast forward: June 26, 1963. President John F. Kennedy stands up before the Frankfurt wall, and in a strong, resolute voice, declares, "Ich bin ein Frankfurter!"

Western civilization collapses overnight...

And what's your favorite idea for a book you know you're never going to write?