It’s 7:30 on a Sunday night. Beside me sits a glass of whisky and ice. I’ve poisoned it, some might say, with Coca-Cola. And that’s fine for this ending to a long day because I’m desirous of the effects, if not so much the taste.
Much of these first three paragraphs was written, and re-written in the car this evening, while listening to Neil Gaiman’s The View From The Cheap Seats (It’s one of three books I’m currently enjoying. The softcover Brimstone by Preston & Child sits beside the whisky glass and Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone awaits my ears when I get to bed, whenever that might be.).
The Gaiman writing is good, as he usually is, but I think there’s more than that pleasure contained in this particular work. It also contains some unspoken encouragement for writers, and I wonder if other people realize that when they read it.
I’ve hardly been writing since the pandemic was declared in March. The Gaiman book, and another huge relief that occurred this week, have served to remove some of the weight that’s been crushing me. Today, some pent up energy was released.
I’ve already mentioned that I began writing this post ahead of time, and that’s much like the new story I sat down to type this morning. Similarly, it formed in my head before I knew I was going to do any writing. As I showered today, two distinct lines popped into my head, as though I had discovered a thing that existed or was remembering something whispered to me in my sleep.
The first was a title: The Time Travel Tinkerer.
The second was the opening: Putter was a tinkerer, a time traveler, and a bastard. At least, that’s how people would have viewed him, if they’d known what he’d done. Or would do, depending on their places in time.
Neither was going to win me a literary award, though perhaps I’d get points for alliteration. I write about things that intrigue me, inspire me, or burn in my mind like an ember that refuses to die. And that’s what I had today.
In the next hour, I wrote two thousand words, practically without stopping. It was pure writing, though I wouldn’t call it stream-of-consciousness because there was order to it, as though I were dictating a story someone had once told me.
There were few of my usual shortcuts in the work (line breaks that represented details to fill later; bullets that marked the beats; or ideas demarcated with parentheses). Those are the devices I employ when I fear I’ll forget a detail when I can’t type quickly enough.
It reminded me of the times I’d taken a piece of my novel that I knew well and just re-typed it from memory: unnecessary details are eroded and the writing is just, well, tighter, for lack of a better word.
I stopped just before the ending because I think I need to dwell on it a bit. The story is high-concept, both filled with science-y stuff, yet devoid of the specific detail that some might desire in science fiction. The story’s goal isn’t to convince you that time travel could be real; I just need you to follow Putter into his conveyance and enjoy the ride.
As I feverishly described this writing hour to my wife, she humored me. I suspect her encouragement was more about my return to writing than the story itself (a high-concept sci-fi piece isn’t her style), and that was all I needed today. As is often the case with these snippets of story idea, I don’t know whether I will finish it. I’d like to, but I have other priorities in my writing and in my life. I predict this will be little more than a short story, perhaps something I’d submit to a sci-fi magazine or website. But we’ll see.
Until then, Putter will hang in the void, staring down at the continuum of time, wondering whether he should try to fix the mess he created or satisfy his scientific curiosity for what happens next.
I hope you are able to find something equally inspiring in the coming weeks. This year of 2020 is going to end with a number of high notes, I think. Good luck!
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© Michael Wallevand, November 2020