Hello, my friends. Today’s post is directed primarily at those of you who are prospective authors, and who have several different ideas for stories set forth in any number of different manuscripts in varied stage of completion. Those of you not so situated may still find what I have to say worthwhile, or, at the least, entertaining, so please, join us as well. I say to all: if you have a project of any sort uncompleted, for whatever reason: pick it up, resume work, and get it done. Nine words: so easy to hear, so quick to write, so hard to do. But please take the advice, so that you are not repeatedly kicking your own posterior down the road as I have been for the last few days.
I had an idea for a novel several years ago that was based in part on a troubled guy I know. I did not tell him the idea; I did not tell anyone else the idea, either, including my wife, children, or friends. I’ll be repeating that occasionally over the next couple of paragraphs, just so that it is entirely clear that I am blaming no one and nothing for my own lack of focus. I can tell you the idea now, however. The basic story involved a group of terrorists taking over a public elementary school and a school employee saving everyone. Die Hard in a classroom? No, but you could be forgiven for thinking so. There’s more to the story, of course, such as how the employee winds up working at the school to begin with, why he is doubly emotionally invested in saving the kids, and things like that. It’s got a great ending, too. But I had problems with certain elements of it, such as why the terrorists picked the particular school they did, and a number — well, quite a number — of other things. The project eventually went on the back burner where it simmered until all of the water went out of it and the bottom of the pot blackened. I would think about it for time to time, but never did anything more with it. And I never shared the idea. With anyone.
Fast forward to this past week. Many of you know that I review mystery and thriller novels for bookreporter.com. I received in that capacity a novel entitled CONSTANT FEAR by Daniel Palmer. If you don’t have Daniel on your must-read list, you should; he’s one of those guys who for years tried to get a publishing deal and when he did he was strong right out of the gate and has gotten better with every book. CONSTANT FEAR grabbed me right from the first page. I was reading right along and got about a tenth of the way into it when I realized that it was somewhat similar to my own neglected project, the one that I had not shared with anyone, including but not limited to Daniel. CONSTANT FEAR is set primarily in a school; a bunch of bad guys are holding a group of students hostage; and it’s up to a school employee to save them. There are more similarities, and some differences as well, but I’m not going to go into them as I don’t want to spoil the surprises you will encounter when you read CONSTANT FEAR. And let me state unequivocally that Daniel did not get the idea for CONSTANT FEAR from me. He couldn’t have, because — let me state it again — I never told it to him or to anyone until now. I’ve met Daniel once or twice, briefly at this or that Thrillerfest, and we have several friends in common, but we’ve never discussed writing or anything serious. Nope. He thought CONSTANT FEAR up all by his lonesome, the same way I did with my unfinished manuscript. The difference is that he plugged away and finished his, and brought his concept to life. I didn’t. You can buy it next week, and if you like thrillers involving flawed underdogs who attempt to triumph against seemingly impossible odds for noble causes, or even if you don’t, it’s a worthwhile, propelling read and would, I think, make a great film as well.
The reason I’m kicking myself is that my idea was certainly marketable, as Daniel has demonstrated with the expression of his own idea. I just didn’t get over the high (but certainly not insurmountable hills) and get it out there. Daniel did. His good, my bad. Please don’t let it be yours. Open that file, the one with thirty-six or fifty-two pages and the great ending or the incredible beginning and the concept that no one has quite done yet, and get it finished. Don’t be satisfied with what might have been, as told in the voice of another.