Eight Million Stories: Which one will you write?


WAY BACK WHEN TELEVISION, at least in my house, was black and white, there was a gritty but brilliant police drama that came on every week.

It was called The Naked City.

It was set in New York.

It had a semi-documentary look and feel.

It didn’t focus on the crimes.

It was a portrait of the people involved.

It followed the trials and tribulations encountered by the detectives who investigated the mean streets of New York’s 65th Precinct.

And I can still hear that great, ominous, foreboding voice that came on behind the opening screen credits and said: “In the naked city, there are eight million stories. This is one of them.”

That is the dilemma faced by those of us who write novels.

And there are legions of us.

On any given day, we have at least eight million stories hanging around on the outskirts of our imaginations.

Which ones do we write?

Which stories do we tell?

I read a lot of books and a lot of blogs, and I see a lot of writers who seem to be running hell bent for leather through quicksand, leaping from one story to another, dead set on telling them all.

They are what I call genre jumpers.

My mystery didn’t sell.

Maybe a fantasy would become a beloved classic.

My romance didn’t crack the top one hundred.

Maybe I’ll shoot the moon with science fiction.

What’s hot?

What’s selling?

If it’s hot now, I’ll write it.

But will it still be hot when I finish my book?

Let’s see now.

How can I cover all my bases just to make sure?

Perhaps I can have a zombie fall in love with a beautiful little vampire and send them traveling across the Wild West in a covered wagon. And maybe they could discover a wrecked space ship in the dry creek beds outside of Roswell, New Mexico, then ride it on a journey to the Middle Earth where a gang of renegade Hobbit bikers is terrorizing the good folks of Purgatory with the threat of the Deathly Hallows, an epidemic that can only be prevented if Prince Charming kisses a beauty who has been sleeping since she went missing somewhere within the 65th Precinct of The Naked City.

One book.

One story.

Make everybody happy.

And then I would only have 7,000,099 stories to go.

They’re all wandering the streets of the naked city.

Even the scantily clad city has a good share of stories.

All we writers have to do is find them, then decide what to do with them.

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