The Stupid 365 Project, Day 71: Christmas is Canceled

December 11th, 2010

Some of you probably remember that a long, long time ago, when I started this thing, I promised a bunch of original short stories. They were supposed to be themed to holidays (like my first-day-of-summer story, excerpted above), and one holiday on most people’s calendars is Christmas.

Well, unless I’m struck by lightning, there isn’t going to be a Christmas story.

I had what I thought was a terrific idea, but there’s no way I can make it work in less than about 3000 words, and I’m not going to write 3000 words at a time when PULPED is pushing its way into the room with me and demanding to be written.  This is an interesting situation, because I actually have more material (for PULPED, I mean) than I can probably use and no idea how to knit it into a coherent story.

The most pressing problems, other than integrating very different story units into something that  looks like a unified whole rather than random gravel, are:

1. Finding a tone that works for the Madison story, which is quite emotional; the Limbo scenes, which are a mix of slapstick and frustration; and the concluding story segment in which I (attempt to) bring them together.

2. Solving the issues of how to handle a budding relationship between a real-life character and a fictional one, and also what happens physically to a fictional character when he launches himself into the real world.

3. Figuring out whodunnit, and why, which is an issue of some interest in a mystery, which this book is, after all, supposed to be.

4. Overcoming massive structural problems with the mystery mechanics, which is always tricky because the genre demands that you play fair (or almost fair) with the reader.

It’s interesting that I started this book thinking it would be a good light workout — revisit Simeon, knock out a mystery, and move on — and instead, it’s turned into one of the most complex things I’ve ever tried to do.  I’ve essentially got several  books working here, and really no idea how to knit them into one.  And in the meantime, new material continues to arrive.

This past week, my working days have been very, very long.  They show no sign of getting shorter.  So my twist on “A Christmas Carol” will probably not emerge into the light of day.

Sorry about that.

12 Responses to “The Stupid 365 Project, Day 71: Christmas is Canceled”

  1. Sylvia Says:

    Figuring out whodunnit, and why

    It makes me feel so much better to realise that other people suffer from the same missing pieces as I do, even though those pieces are meant to be the point!

  2. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Sylvia — There’s no place to put the point until you’ve made the needle.

    Okay, I know that’s flip, but it’s my experience with almost every book I’ve written.

  3. Sabine Says:

    Tim, until about some minutes ago I didn’t know anything about a “bunch of original short stories” you promised to your readers. And I’m personally very happy when I don’t have to read christmas (no typo!) stories. But I remember very well that you promised to write a blog of at least 300 words EACH AND EVERY DAY for one year. So, where is the blog of December 10th, 2010?!

    But I like the title of this blog: “Christmas is Canceled”. Wonderful! Geat! Welcome to the club!

  4. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    I do like your first day of summer story. Given what else you are doing, I’l have to forgo the Christmas story. In a totally unrelated direction, I am doing a Hallinan immersion, and I just finished “Breathing Water” (I know I know, I’m late to the party again), and I am breathless. Your section here on Asia and the incredible photographs answer the question so well, although Poke would never leave Rose and Miaow. From what I read and see, Bangkok is truly wonderful and awful in a very moving way. I have a friend who commented on the temples everywhere. He went for the surfing, and I guess he got more than he expected, as have I.

  5. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Sabine —

    They’re all there, it’s just that sometimes I post on the evening before the due date, so it’s dated a day early. And then, to confuse matters further, let’s say I posted the blog for the 9th on the 9th and then did the blog for the 10th on the evening of the 9th, giving us two blogs dated the 9th.

    WordPress actually does give you an option to go back and change posting dates, but if I’m going to blow off the Xmas story, I’m certainly not going to spend 90 minutes changing dates.

    Thanks, Lil. All my short stories should be that short. REALLY glad you liked BREATHING WATER. I like all the books in that series because I genuinely love Poke, Rose, Miaow, and Arthit, but that one has a special place in my writing memory. And you’re dead on; the two words that best describe Bangkok are wonderful and awful.

  6. Gary Says:

    No Christmas story? Oh, what a relief. The Halloween story was bad enough. The only redeeming feature was that I found out from Everett how to bold and italic.

    No, let’s be serious. Please don’t burden yourself with anything that gets in the way of your real writing. (And that includes this daily blog. As long as it’s helping your writing then please keep doing it. But the moment it becomes counterproductive you should have NO qualms about dropping it like a hot brick.)

    Oh, and speaking of a year: 71 times 5 equals 355. In two more days you’ll be 20% through!

  7. Debbi Says:

    OMG, you have my sympathy. I’m working on the third Sam McRae story. Your situation is different, but I understand the frustration.

    Focus on your story. Don’t worry about Christmas. There are plenty of Christmas stories to spare. 🙂

  8. Laren Bright Says:

    It’s a fine mess you’ve gotten yourself into, Ollie.

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Well, well, Gary — after all the nice stuff I wrote about you in my pathetic attempt to get you to stop making me look stupid, you say something awful about my — oh, wait, you’re being nice. Whew. The problem was that the story was (in concept at least — I haven’t written a word of it) pretty damn funny, and timely to boot. And even Sabine would have liked it. On the other hand, I did about 3300 words today, and that feels pretty amazing.

    Hi, Debbi — so when will it be finished? I want to read it like tomorrow. (Debbi’s first Sam McRae book, “Identity Crisis,” was crackerjack — and a Kindle best-seller, and the second, “Least Wanted,” is even better. If you’ve got a Kindle, put “Identity Crisis” on your list — “Least Wanted” isn’t out yet.

    Hey, Laren. It is indeed. We should have a Laurel and Hardy festival — the films are probably all available from Netflix.

  10. Lala Corriere Says:

    GREAT post, Tim!

  11. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Welcome, Lala, and thanks.

  12. Larissa Says:

    Thank God there’s not another christmas story in the works…hehe…between terribly radio jingles and all the other nonsense floating around, I’ll be hard pressed to remember that holidays are supposed to be fun. hehe. (c: Ok, so it’s not that bad but it can be sometimes.

    That being said, I’m glad I’m not the only one trying to figure out what happens to a character when they move from one plane of existence to the other…and why they would do that…I’m stuck on the why.

    Anyway-good luck and we’re glad that you’re still hangin’ in there. I look forward to these daily blog bits. (c:

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