Building in someone else’s sandbox

Last week I didn’t have a real direction for what I was going to write about today. After thinking about it for a few minutes, I decided on the above topic because it’s what I’m currently doing. At Dawn They Sleep is on hold for a week or so while I kick out a short story in a world I was invited to write in. It’s not my world, but wholly someone else’s and, admittedly, I have some concerns about it. The owner of the property has been super cool and it has nothing to do with him or the process by which things are being handled. Honestly, I’m totally happy with that portion of things. The lines of communication are completely open, we have FAQs, lots of lively discussion, and everyone involved in committed. Not only to their stories, but also helping out with any other story that needs it. It’s a level of involvement I’ve not seen on a shared world project before. Now you’re probably asking what in the hell my problem is, and, you know I’m going to tell you. There’s no need to push.

The problem is me.

While I’ll argue that I’m the problem in all my fiction, this goes a little deeper. Follow me for a minute, here. If I run my car into a ditch, it’s all me. I’ve fucked up my automobile, possibly my health, and I might be embarrassed depending on the circumstances, but everything up there is all about me. Now, let’s say I don’t run into a ditch, but rather make an illegal left turn and T-bone dude’s big, expensive Escalade. Bang, fuck, maybe I’m dead. Maybe I’m not. Again, there’s the chance of personal injury, though greater, not to mention bringing harm to dude in the other car. On top of all that, there’s now damage to my vehicle and his, and making an illegal turn is pretty stupid, so embarrassment is once again on the table.

Which situation is worse, do you think?

If you’re thinking the latter, I’m in total agreement with you. And that’s exactly what it’s like playing in someone else’s sandbox. The potential for damage is so much greater because there’s another person(s) involved other than yourself. Just like in the above example, it’s exponential and leads to a lot of issues. Not being invited back to play in the sandbox again, reputation damage elsewhere (writers talk, man, you betcha… we’re assholes), damaging the integrity of the sandbox itself. Really, that list goes on, and that’s what I’m concerned about.

That’s not to say if I screw up, the owner of the sandbox is going to do anything like that, but that’s not really the point. I don’t believe he will; I rather believe he’d tell me what worked, what didn’t work, offer suggestions (you know, the way #risingtide authors do) and we’d work it out. But to think that, without any concern, is like getting behind the wheel of a car drunk. You might make it home alive, or you might fucking die. The likelihood of death, however, is much higher.

My experience is that defensive driving is always the best option, and so it is when you’re writing in someone’s backyard. Caution never hurt anyone, until that caution turns into paralyzing fear, that point you end up sitting in the driveway, keys in the ignition, weeping, afraid to go anywhere. I’m not quite at that point, but I saw myself slipping into that mindset and so I did something about it.

I started the story. I’m not far into it, but I already have the sketch in my head of where it’s going to go, how it’s going to end, and how it’s going to (hopefully) feed into the second story I’m supposed to write in this sandbox. Without letting myself think about it, I put myself on the road, steered my car out into traffic.

Still cautious, watching what I’m doing and what the other drivers are doing, but goddamn it, I’m driving.

Next week, I’m going to post a meme I ran across and ask questions from my female readers about feminism. That should be fun and informative, so I’ll see you next Wednesday, eh?

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2 responses to “Building in someone else’s sandbox

  1. You’ll do great! If you let her, V. will guide you through the process.She always know her words and her realm better than even I.

  2. Pingback: The Lift – Season One | C. Bryan Brown

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