Posted on October 2, 2005 Posted by John Scalzi 6 Comments
There’s a meme going around right now in which writers list the first lines of their unfinished works (for example, see Charlie Stross’ opening lines here).
I can’t participate because I don’t currently have any unfinished work. I don’t tend to write bits of something and then let it lie around while I work on something else; I tend to work serially. Thus, having finished a book and not yet started another project, I’ve got nothin’. This makes wonder if I’m a freak (at least in the writing sense). The only time I have more than one book writing project going on is when I have a deadline slip. Not that that ever happens, of course.
Now, I do have opening lines from dead projects, which is to say projects that are unfinished because I’ve abandoned them for one reason or another. But I don’t imagine that qualifies, since in a sense they are finished, because I don’t intend to do any more with them.
Needless to say, I apologize to my fellow writers for failing them in this regard.
I don’t think you have anything to apologize for. I’m not able to do this meme, either. I’ve often pondered having several writing projects going at once, but I don’t think my brain could handle it.
The opening lines from my projects would a) be really damn boring but b) more importantly break NDAs. Most of my work is technical writing for work; I have a couple of freelance projects, but articles about Windows and Exchange just aren’t sexy.
I tend to have one *type* of project going at a time — one non-ficton book chapter, one magazine article, one fiction book or short story. I may have several ideas churning around at a time, but I tend to stick to outlines and other background materials until I finish the active project. There’s one exception to that — I wrote myself into a corner with Silicon Cats and I’ve only just figured out how to get out of it; in the meantime (three years), I’ve started work on my next novel.
“Thus, having finished a book and not yet started another project, I’ve got nothin’. This makes wonder if I’m a freak (at least in the writing sense). […] Now, I do have opening lines from dead projects, which is to say projects that are unfinished because I’ve abandoned them for one reason or another.”
Nope, this doesn’t make you a freak, just a kindred spirit to this particular needleworker. :-)
In craft circles, a work-in-progress is known as a “UFO” or “unfinished object”. Most of the cross-stitchin’, needlepointin’, embroidery makin’ women that I know seem to have a half-dozen UFOs going at one time. Me? I seem to always plow through one project at a time. If I have something unfinished it’s because of the same reason you gave – I’ve abandonded it.
I used to have zillions of opening lines/paras. Now, of the three I listed … one’s dead: I handed it in, finished, on Monday. One of the others is, well, it’s the next novel, and it’s sold, and I’ve only written the first 10% of it. Only one of those examples was a genuine Unfinished Story that stands some risk of staying that way.
It seems to me that pros have far fewer UFOs than hopeful amateurs.
OK, forgive me for asking the obvious question, but isn’t this a great opportunity to show us the opening lines of The Ghost Brigades?
Nope. It’s finished.