I’ve gone through too many story ideas lately, all of which end up in the trash can. The latest was one I carried for the last week, an attempt to redo The War of the Worlds. It failed because I simply didn’t care about what happened to people in the 1890s.
The other night, I couldn’t sleep at all. The fear of never having an idea to write about left me restless, and when tossing and turning in my bed didn’t work, pacing back and forth in my bedroom became the next best thing.
In my bedroom, I have an old article from my high school newspaper. A friend of mine used to write for the paper, and as we got ready to graduate, he was able to get a piece written about me and my writing. In retrospect, it was a bit of indulgence, but seeing as how graduates were moving on to delusions of grandeur, it kind of fit the theme of the final issue that year.
I’d written a 70-page story in my senior year. It was a crappy rip-off of Heinlein’s Starship Troopers, and I’m pretty sure no copies survived to this day, but it was significant in that it was the first thing I’d finished.
Later, in my last year of college, I took a class called “Major American Authors”. I had a reputation among the English department for harboring creative aspirations, and convinced my professor to let me write some fiction for my final project, a story about soldiers raised in the future to fight wars so the rest of humanity wouldn’t have to. Unfortunately, I broke my writing hand shortly after and simple typing became an enormous challenge for me while I healed. My professor let me turn in an outline for the story instead – you have to understand, I really couldn’t write for a month.
My professor did press me to keep the concept alive and give it a shot. It fell by the wayside in the years that followed, but I did keep it in the back of my mind, filed away in the “make your professors proud” drawer.
My high school story didn’t have factory-raised soldiers. My college story didn’t feature a horde of alien insects. But the other night, as I paced in my room, the two ideas met, had drinks, and decided they liked each other. The best part was how excited I felt over the idea, the kind of excitement I haven’t felt since I first got interested in writing.
And it only took some ten years for me to get the idea.