The Stories You Have to Write

The novel I’m working on is still far from reaching its full potential. Which is to say, it’s not really going well.

But despite this fairly obvious reality, I’m still really into the story and, more to the point, I feel a strong sense of resolve to keep working until I reach the end. I’m not exactly sure why I feel like this, but I think it’s because the idea for the book is an old one. Like, twenty years old.

It’s not that I’ve been trying to write this book for the past two decades. For most of that time I wasn’t doing any creative writing at all (I was drinking). But still, the idea has been bouncing around my head for a good long while and, now that I’m finally sober and sitting at the keyboard, it’s time to get this story out.

I have not written a great book yet. Perhaps I never will. But I do have the feeling that, unless I clear the backlog of story ideas re-circulating through my system, I’ll never even have a chance. And furthermore, it’s always possible that this story is the great book.

Maybe it will. Maybe it won’t. The only thing I think I know for sure is, if I don’t write it, I will never know. So I will keep plugging along and we will see.

I’m not in a position to be giving other writers advice on how to decide what to write next. The only thing I can offer is how I’m thinking about it, which basically boils down to two things.

First, I have to purge that old backlog of ideas. If I’m still thinking about these stories years after they were first conceived, there must be a reason. So I will write them and let the chips do what they do.

Second, I will write without much consideration for how the new stories stack up to the previous ones. In other words, I will continue to move forward, trying not to repeat myself . . . if for no other reason than the simple fact that the future is more interesting than the past. I hope the handful of people who have read and dug my previous books will like the next one. But ultimately, that’s not something I can control.

So here I go, back to work on my weird little novel that probably made more sense in 1999, when it first wormed its way into my beer soaked brain.

Published by New Bayou Books

JR Reed started New Bayou Books to spark a revolution in Louisiana literature. The goal of the company is simple: to great writers out of the shadows to carry on the Louisiana literary tradition.

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