I loved the work of Kurt Vonnegut, Jr. Kurt Vonnegut…not so much.
I remember a critique by Spider Robinson on a later Vonnegut work.
“And to think the sorry, sad, son-of-a-bitch used to know how to write.”
A little brutal, but…
Coming from Spider, that is really damning.
Who? The guy bound and gagged for writing boring stuff about some professor’s identity crisis.
HA! I know this one.
Roger von Oech wrote a fun book, A Whack on the Side of the Head, that addressed stuff like this.
One example he gave, was the hunters in a tribe are finding less game. They go to the Shaman and he makes them a new map to follow in their hunt. He takes a piece of leather, crumples it up and tells the hunters to follow the lines and they will find game.
Vonnegut fell victim to his own success. He looked around at what he published, and all those books filled his field of view. It never occurred to him to step outside his published work and see the vast selection of things that he had yet to write.
The map I use for finding story is the London Underground Map.
I found the full size map, 2×3 foot, to play with. There are eleven lines, and 270 station. I look at them as eleven storylines, and each station as an episode.
If you follow the Central line, the one in solid red, that starts in square A1 and ends at A8, and lay your novel out on that, you can see that no matter how complete your story is, that you are surrounded by other stories happening all around.
The Underground is a “system” not a limited number of stations used once and never touched again. There are a vast number of people/stories traveling through that system all the time.
I have as many London Underground Maps as I need. Each Map represents the “rules” for that Verse. Think of all the books Stephen King wrote, along with J.K. Rowling. They exist in the same world. Carrie and Firestarter were simply untrained Wizards like Dumbledore’s sister.
As I said above, if you think that your finished novel is all that you can see of the world you played in, then you are missing so much. It would be like writing Gone with the Wind, and deciding that there were no more Civil War stories to tell. HA!
Most of the better series came about that way: writer tells a good story, then realizes there’s more to the character/world/situation.
The answer to the old “what comes next” question becomes another story. Often the resolution of one story or its open threads lead to another. Doesn’t apply to all stories but it is common enough occurrence.
A writer with nothing to say is more likely burned out by the process than lacking material to work with. In that he might be right: burnout, in any profession, is not a pretty sight.
Wouldn’t the writer with nothing more to say, living in freedom, be happy? Or at least content.
Perhaps he should have asked Philip Roth, who simply stopped writing because he didn’t have to write anymore. So far as I know, he didn’t seem to miss writing every day.
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