It’s been a tough couple of weeks around Rancho Libro, which is Spanish for “Free Red Sauce,” as I have come down with a mind-numbing, jaw-locking, brain-freezing case of creative doldrums. I’m just so sick to death of working on this SF trilogy that I’ve gone into treadmill mode, which basically means writing three pages a night that I will throw away tomorrow night.
That all changed on yesterday’s hike through the greenbelt. People always ask where writers get their ideas and most of the time, 99% of the time, I can tell you exactly where a particular idea came from. For instance, I was thinking about writing a spy novel but I wanted to do something different with it so I asked myself the question: What if the Russian KGB agent was actually the good guy? And The Answer Man was born.
Other times, the origin is not so clear and what happened yesterday is one of those cases. I was out hiking through the woods, hopping from rock to rock to cross rain swollen streams, when I remembered an old gag from Alfred Hitchcock Presents (I think, I could be wrong but it’s the right timeframe) where a guy kills himself but sets it up so the first person to find his body will be framed for his murder. And then I thought: What if the reverse of that happened accidentally? What if someone committed a murder but accidentally made it look like a suicide? If could feel the presence of an idea lying tantalizingly just at the edge of my mind and then it became whole when one more element (one I’m keeping secret for now) fell in place.
And then it was… just… awesome. The entire plot fell into my head in one continuous piece. I couldn’t wait to get home to start working on it. To hell with that SF trilogy (for now), the gods of pulp fiction just dropped a story directly into my head. But before I could get started, I realized there was a major flaw in the idea. The whole story hung on this one point that, when you really thought about it, made no sense. So I told the whole thing to My Lovely Assistant, watching her get more and more interested, and then pulled out the rug by pointing out the major flaw.
“You’ve got to use it.” She was adamant. “That’s too good not to use. Maybe you can use part of it?”
I worked it over and over in my head until late last night when I solved the one problem and the whole plot became instantly solvent. My case of creative lethargy is cured and I’ve got something to work on that will shove the SF trilogy to the back burner for three months until I can get a fresh take on it.
Also, The Answer Man got its first review the other day. And it was a very good review from a guy who knows the genre. He even compared it favorably with a Jack Reacher novel. So things are looking up.