So here's the deal. The story affectionately known as "V" has reached a standstill, and at this point its future is uncertain. Again, for me and my writing process, this is nothing unusual. In fact, there have been many occasions in the past when I have had to "retire" a particular story idea that I had been working on, in some cases for years. Such a retirement is always provisional, however. After all, I once retired the story concept that eventually became my first novel, The Bluebird of Happiness. It was at a point when the story idea (then known as The Terrible Blue) was already seven years old and didn't seem to be going anywhere... but in another six years it would finally emerge, almost overnight, in a supernova of inspiration. So you never know how these things will evolve. Sometimes things just have to develop in their own good time, and you can't force it if it's not the right time.
My story "retirements" are often conceived not as throwing out the story idea altogether so much as "deconstructing" it. In other words, I wish to preserve the best ideas from it for possible re-use later, either in a revived version of the same story (as happened with Bluebird) or in another story entirely (or perhaps various ideas from the original concept will pop up here and there in a number of different stories).
In any case, there is a more positive side to what is happening right now. It is not merely that "V" has lost some of its inspiration. Rather, a new inspiration has been slowly but surely displacing it. It is as though a nebulous mass of low pressure weather has begun pushing out the bright, high pressure air of "V". I sense some dark fugue arising in my imagination, still in the earliest stages of formation, taking on only dimly perceptible shapes, but with an undeniable mounting energy and the promise of great power, like the low rumbling of distant thunder. Like Bluebird in its final inspiration, it has the feeling of music and of hieratic, dreamlike vision. When I feel the story as music and as visionary image at least as much as narrative, I know it is mine.
One thing I can already say about this new story concept--it does not yet have a title, but I'm temporarily referring to it as "Rainbow"--is that it bears strong resemblances to Bluebird (to the point where I am wondering if it may in fact be a related story involving some of the characters from the earlier novel). At the very least, there are definite similarities in terms of character types, settings, themes, and feelings. This makes me worry, of course, that writing what comes most naturally to me, what most inspires me, will mean writing the same story over and over, albeit in different variations.
However, when you think about it, many great authors have carved out a niche for themselves by writing multiple stories and novels that largely involve the same general type of setting, characters, themes, etc.--one only need think of Jane Austen, for instance, or Henry James, Charles Dickens, Ernest Hemingway, and any number of other novelists whose works, despite their individual variations and unique qualities, display an overall aesthetic and thematic unity that stamps them with the distinctive mark of their creators.
So perhaps being true to my muse will mean creating a canon of works that bear the strong, distinctive mark of their author and of his peculiar obsessions, tastes, and notions, so that someday people might say, "that's like something out of a Steven Holland story". At least, that is how I like to flatter myself.
Right now, all I know is that I feel like Dorothy, having just left Professor Marvel's house, as the first storm winds begin to blow, with the promise of some wondrous and magical Oz waiting to be discovered on the other side of the cyclone.