1. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    The One Big Story

    Discussion in 'General Writing' started by minstrel, Mar 28, 2014.

    I have a lot of ideas for stories. Several of them are for novels, many for short stories or novellas. I keep coming up with them, so I know I'll never run out.

    But I have One Big Story in mind - the first novel I started working on when I was in my twenties. I have the first draft done and the second draft about 20% done. There's a ton of work to do on it. It's my baby, my child. If I ever publish anything, it will be this story. It contains everything I'm all about and I love it more than anything else I've ever come up with. It's my alpha and omega, my final testament to existence. It's the only real gold I have to offer the world.

    I wonder sometimes what I would do if I ever finish this book and get it published. What then? Everything else I have on the plate pales in comparison. Would I feel any incentive to write anything else? Would anybody want to read anything else I wrote? Why would I bother carrying on?

    I think one of the reasons I haven't finished this story - the reason it's still on the back burner and is likely to stay there for a while - is that I don't know if I'd want to carry on writing after I finish it. I'd better get a career done and in the can before I finish this story, so that I, and any readers I might have, would regard this One Big Story as my crowning achievement. I would probably retire after it's published.

    I remember reading a quote from James Joyce after Finnegans Wake was finally published. He said, "If I ever write anything else, it will be very, very simple." He never did write anything else.

    Does anybody else feel like this? Does anybody else have One Big Story that overshadows anything else they might write? Does anybody else feel like, if they complete their Lord of the Rings, their Moby Dick, their To Kill a Mockingbird, their Divine Comedy, that they'll just pack it in and call it a career?
     
  2. GingerCoffee
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    GingerCoffee Web Surfer Girl Contributor

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    I'm a one novel pony so far, and it is definitely the story I want to write.
     
  3. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    I think you're referring to the magnum opus. Presumably we all (we think) have one.
     
  4. EllBeEss
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    EllBeEss Contributing Member

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    That's the exact reason that I rarely get too far into a specific idea I have because it's my brain child, the idea I've been messing with since I was a little kid (obviously it's become a lot more mature and complex since then) and I'm terrified of finishing it and then finding it's terrible and I can't fix it. I know that whatever happens to that idea I'm going to keep writing because that's the beautiful thing it might take years and years and years but there will always be something I want to write and there will always be something to improve about my writing.
     
  5. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    Why write one masterpiece when you can write two? Tolstoy could have stopped at War and Peace. Instead, he went on to write Anna Karenina.
     
  6. 123456789
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    123456789 Contributing Member Contributor

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    Honestly, he shouldn't have bothered
     
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  7. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    I used to think Imagine was everything and would be everything if I could ever get it to work right. I always had the feeling I would move on to other things afterwards since I'm still young, but I couldn't Imagine what would or could come next. Imagine was my reason for writing, the repository of all my creativity.

    But it no sits on the shelf with an uncertain future. Will I ever return to it? Maybe. I've grown up a bit from it and it would take a new spark to fling me back into that world. For now, it is enough to write and finish something. My ideas don't come to me like they used to. When they do, they have to be something special to get hook me. The story has to entice me as much as I would have to entice other readers or it's no sale. Maybe more will come to me once I have more life experience.

    There is another one I'm preparing for, which is everything to me for now. It may be my "grand" entrance into the published world, or just a project that I work on for myself. Whatever the case, I look forward to a future that's free to unfold.
     
  8. jannert
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    jannert Contributing Member Supporter Contributor

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    I understand completely. I scratch my head in bemused envy at people who have tons of writing ideas for tons of stories. For me, it's only this one. I've spent a helluva long time getting it to the stage where I feel I'm on my final edit. I am writing a second, but it's a direct sequel to this one. I have no real interest in writing outside of this milieu.

    I realise that if you want a 'career' as a writer, you can't do this. You have to be willing and able to churn out quality material on a regular basis, or no agent or publisher will ever take you on. However, that doesn't help. My story is really the only one I want to write.

    I may challenge myself, once this is truly done and dusted, to TRY writing something else—beyond the sequel. But I don't think I'll feel the love for it that I do for this one.

    Good luck with yours, @minstrel. I hope its publication brings you the heart-satisfaction that you are striving for.
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
  9. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Well, this is kind of the point. Tolstoy was a genius who had more than one masterpiece in him. I have my Mount Everest and a whole bunch of little anthills. I like the little anthills, but they're anthills to me. One Everest is all I've got. If I ever find another, I will count myself among the luckiest people in the world.

    One thing, though. I've said this before and I'll probably say it again: my stories tend to grow. I set out to write a short story and before I know it, it becomes a novella, and possibly a novel. It could be that one (or even two?) of my anthills might grow into an Everest if I give it enough attention, enough food and water, enough love. Things sometimes happen that way for me.

    But it hasn't happened yet.

    Still, there's one anthill that looks pretty promising. Difficult to write - I have to find a way to write a main character's suicide in such a way that it's a positive, life-enhancing event. Because it is. But I don't know how to do it right now, so I'm leaving that anthill on the back burner, stirring it occasionally and hoping the tectonic processes will turn it into something grand. (Oh, how I love mixing metaphors!)

    :)
     
  10. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Can we... make a mountain... out of a molehill?
     
    Last edited: Mar 28, 2014
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  11. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    Nope. Moles are uncooperative. On the other hand, making a mountain out of Lego blocks - that's possible! And if you sole your shoes with Lego patterns, you can climb it easily and safely! All you need is about eight million tons of plastic!

    It's after midnight here. You can tell, can't you? :)
     
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  12. pinelopikappa
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    pinelopikappa Senior Member

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    I don't feel like that, but I understand what you are saying.

    I really think that one good book is already an acomplishment, so do that and then worry about what comes next.

    Besides, worries that stop you from finishing your book seem a lot like procrastination to me.
     
  13. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well I think that makes a brilliant idea. You might want to through your name in to help right the next Lego Movie. I'm just sayin. :rolleyes:

    And you're no crazier than I am. ;) It's about 12:13 here. As a matter of fact, I think I'm going to be responsible tonight and go to bed here soon.
     
  14. FrankieWuh
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    FrankieWuh Active Member

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    My view of the one Everest is split into me as the writer, and me as the business man.
    As a writer, there are projects I keep going back to. Ten years ago, I went back to the first story I ever wrote (the fourth time I did so) and completed it. It was very different to the story I wrote when I was just 17 years old, but essentially it was the same thing. I considered that as my Everest book. I believed I had distilled everything I wanted, was interested in, and was good at writing, into that book. Actually what really happened was that this book was me at that time in my life. Ten years on, I'm a different person. A different writer. A better writer.
    And what happened when I completed that book, was that at the top of the mountain, I saw more mountains, much higher ones that had been hidden from view while I was at the bottom, or even climbing its slopes. With that in mind, I realised that for every next and new Everest, I knew there would be a greater challenge to come, one that I would see from the top. I would still have my ant-hills (you need to train before that great ascent, yeah?) but now I'm confident I'm not a one-novel person.

    Which brings me to the business man.

    As a business man I just can't be a one-novel guy. The fact is, I love writing. I love it, and I want to do it for a career. The problem with believing I have only one big novel in me, is that as a business man I'll be putting all my eggs into one basket. If that one big novel was published, but didn't succeed, my writing career would be over. I wouldn't have the confidence to continue, and then my dream of writing as a career would be pretty much sunk. I have to believe that the next novel will be my best because it will be the only way I can keep that dream going and be honest to my readers. If I wrote a story I believed was an ant-hill, but a publisher paper mached it into a mountain, I would feel quite dishonest. I would be demotivated.

    Maybe I am a one big novel guy, and I'm deceiving myself, but I really don't believe so, and while I believe that the next novel is going to be a bigger challenge than the last, I'll keep on writing. And climbing.
     
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  15. EdFromNY
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    EdFromNY Hope to improve with age Supporter Contributor

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    I thought so before I started my first novel attempt, which was to be a historical novel set in and around New York. I started researching when I was still in grad school and sketched out a couple of characters for some early chapters. But that was back when I thought I'd be teaching (college level) as a career. When I started applying for adjunct positions and found myself competing with seasoned veterans (I actually got a mimeographed response from one school) I realized that college enrollments were shrinking and faculties with them. My wife and I had just bought a house, wanted to have kids. So I back-burnered the novel and switched gears and went for an MBA.

    About 10 years after I got my MBA, two characters suddenly popped into my head, a couple of high school kids in the 1930s. I figured they would be the MCs in the last section of my historical and started writing, just to see where it went. Pretty soon, I realized this wasn't a part of a novel, it was a novel in and of itself, something very different than I'd originally conceived. When I finished, I realized I still had a lot to learn about writing. I also started having new ideas about stories to write, something I'd not given any thought to while I was still working on it.

    I don't know why Harper Lee never wrote again. Maybe it was because To Kill A Mockingbird was such a seminal work; maybe she feared she'd never be able to match that. Maybe she sold herself short by not trying.

    So, my advice is to push through and finish the novel. You can't know the answers to the questions that are gnawing at you, and the only thing they are doing now is slowing you down. A much worse fate would be to never finish the one big novel because of your fear that it might be.

    And may The Force be with you.
     
  16. thirdwind
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    thirdwind Contributing Member Contest Administrator Reviewer Contributor

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    A bit of luck is involved when writing masterpieces. Think of how many books went on to be called masterpieces only after the author's death. So you may actually have two Mount Everests and not even realize it. Literature is funny that way.
     
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  17. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I always thought that my first novel would be the one, but that soon went out the window. Now that I have more years, experience, and a variety of pieces under my belt, I believe that I have two novels (both general fiction/drama, funnily enough) in the planning that could currently be my masterpieces - or only one, or none. In the end, I think it's only once you begin to write, and even edit, the piece that you'll truly know whether this is your magnum opus.

    And would I pack it up and call it a career if one or both of these were published? No way. There are still many stories for me to tell, and just because it may not be as good as my magnum opus it certainly does not mean that it wouldn't be of readable and literary quality. Every career has highs and lows; even when a businessman knows he's hit the peak of his money-making, I very much doubt that he would stop, because he will always love making money. And I will always love creating stories and characters and worlds. It's as simple as that.

    Also, it may be considered your magnum opus now, but in ten years a new idea may come along that blows your previous work out of the water. Don't assume that your writing skills and brain knows everything now, because it doesn't. As I mentioned, I always thought my first novel would be my magnum opus, but through time and more writing I realised that was horrendously untrue. It could happen again with my current pieces, and it could happen with yours.

    Enjoy your writing, and enjoy creating your stories. Passion is vital. :)
     
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  18. Bryan Romer
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    Bryan Romer Contributing Member Contributor

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    I write because I want to entertain, to thrill and excite my readers. That is a never ending task.

    Given that, I can't see that I'll ever write The One Book that will render all others pointless. There is always another thrill hiding over the next ridge or around the next bend.
     
  19. peachalulu
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    peachalulu Contributing Member Reviewer Contributor

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    Yes! Mine is a behemoth. I've been working on it on and off for over twenty years. I first came up with the idea when I was fourteen - it was inspired by David Lynch's Twin Peaks, my love of amnesia movies, and my love/hatred for my hometown. The sucker keeps transforming and growing as I've realized over the years certain ideas and plot threads were trite or childish. I've even flipped my mc. One character mentioned in the first draft in one line ( but was a main figure in the past ) has become the protagonist.

    I think the reason I've kept mine on the backburner is because I was never sure I was good enough to do it justice. But for me I won't leave it for my last book ever, I'm actually just waiting to get a few publications - some sort of validation or verification or maybe just a boost of confidence that I am good enough.
     
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  20. minstrel
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    minstrel Leader of the Insquirrelgency Staff Supporter Contributor

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    I hear you. This is me, too.
     
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  21. Michael Collins
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    Michael Collins Contributing Member

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    I wish I had a One Big Story, I always think I'm full of ideas, but nothing big.
    They just turn out to be short story material.

    Probably I need to sort out the messy Big One Story that is my life.
     
  22. Aled James Taylor
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    Aled James Taylor Contributing Member Contributor

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    I currently have enough text gathered together to make a novel. When I started, I had enough ideas to fill a page. Whenever I think about that world, I think of more things to write and a few hundred more words are added. It's not a big story though, it's a small story but it has many facets.
     
  23. Andrae Smith
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    Andrae Smith Gone exploring... in the inner realm... Contributor

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    Well said, bud, well said. :cool:
     
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  24. aikoaiko
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    aikoaiko Contributing Member

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    And you have to remember too that things change. Circumstances and people evolve. New experiences come along that you never would have thought possible earlier. Twenty years from now you can't even say what you'll be doing---much less what kind of inspiration you'll have. Since masterpieces are based on life experiences (usually), you can't say you're dried up until you are able to predict the future.;) If you are 99 today and know for a fact you'll be dead tomorrow, then I guess you have a point. But not now. Don't give up on anything, ever. Really. It's not over til it's over!
     
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  25. Thomas Kitchen
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    Thomas Kitchen Proofreader in the Making Contributor

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    I approve of your approval.
     

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