Writing update

I have now completed four books, each with a completely different writing process, and all because I couldn’t concentrate on the one I was supposed to be writing. The neglected work is the non-fiction book on H. G. Wells’ life in education, Preposterous and Necessary: The Education of H. G. Wells, for which I’ve been gathering evidence for four years.

The first book that’s ready is the collection of Wells’ science education writings, cleverly entitled H. G. Wells on Science Education, 1886-1896, which took three summers in English libraries. I am submitting it to academic presses, since the publisher who originally indicated interest has since turned it down. It might work better as a Digital Humanities project, but I’ve been refused for so many grants I haven’t the heart to apply for any. (It has finally occurred to me that grants are intended for “early career” young people attached to universities, not for older women teaching community college and researching on their own.)
The second is an auto-fictional novella, Before the Time Machine. This was the book I had to write, and it wrote itself, night after night. I then tried to organize it on sticky notes, pasted all over an interior double-door, but I’m not sure what that did other than create an intriguing decor. It’s been alpha-read by wonderful friends and edited by me and, although I had Rachel Cusk-ian dreams for it, it will likely be self-published for a small and deeply disturbed readership who wants to dig deep for their books.
The third is the first historical mystery, Murder at Old St. Thomas’s, set in 1862 London with a medical focus. Here I tried Scrapple to keep my timeline organized, because it was writing itself out of control and my characters were wandering off doing their own thing. I had to make sure that the sequence was right. At first I tried doing some planning using the timeline, but instead defaulted to writing first and then entering the scenes on the timeline, moving things around if they didn’t fit. Sort of what I intended for the sticky notes for the novella. It’s finished, edited by me, and ready for (self?) publication after one more proof-reading pass.
The fourth is the sequel, Murder at an Exhibition, set in 1863 London with an artistic focus. Actual historical figures took a larger role in this one. I tried desperately to outline and plan ahead, which was a disaster and caused much angst, as readers of this blog already know.  Ultimately it has come together, with some scene editing still to do before line editing, but it’s basically complete.

And now? I’m stuck. I have an idea for a third mystery, to make a trilogy, but perhaps jumping ahead to 1884. It seems to want to just float in my head, and isn’t really begging to be written. Perhaps that will come. Preposterous and Necessary waits in the wings. It doesn’t want to be written yet, perhaps because its annual infusion of Britishness has been stymied by what will likely be two summers of being unable to go to England. Such a trip is technically unnecessary at this point, since I have almost all of the material, but it seems somehow essential. I try an occasional short story, but they tend to be very short, under 1000 words, not really flash fiction (no flash) but not long enough to interest anyone. I can also blame being stuck on lack of space in which to work, brain mush, faulty organization, teaching a lot, and the siren call of Other Things to Do, but none of these prevented me hacking out novels.

So instead I’m writing this post. With four books done and nothing published, it’s all I can do.


2 comments to Writing update

  • jmm

    Completing books is an impressive and frankly astonishing feat for those of us who find it difficult to finish a letter. Huzzah! Let us all be upstanding for these accomplishments!

    If a novel falls in the forest and no one options it for a miniseries, it’s still there.