Two Steps Forward, One Step Back

My posts have been pretty inconsistent lately. There’s been some illness in the family – I’m actually writing this sick in bed at the moment, lots of editing work that needed doing, and pressures from the day job all vying for attention so this ole blog is just getting the short end of the stick time after time. What that’s telling me is that I need to write these things in advance. I suppose that’s the smart thing to do, but now why would anybody do something responsible like that?

On to writing … I’ve been battling a mini internal crisis lately. See, I poured a lot of myself into Land of Sky and Blood. I learned new techniques, even took a class, and really tried to make that book as rich as I could make it. Then I went ahead and wrote Partners in Crime (well got about three quarters of the way through anyway) and I discovered that … let’s say LoSaB is hearty stew … it’s got a bunch of complementary flavors, some fresh ingredients, a few old favorites, and it’s all balanced so you’re getting the combined effect of the entire recipe. Well, if LoSaB is a stew, then Partners in Crime is just broth. It’s simple and felt like after everything I’d learned, I was actually taking a step backward in writing it.

Maybe it’s because I haven’t figured out the ending yet either, so that ground me to a halt, but still, I knew something was wrong for a while but pressed on anyway. I hate not having it finished. “Always finish what you start” was rule number 10 in my Tae Kwon Do studio growing up and all these years later, I still hear Master Gladwell and Master Kim’s gruff disapproval in me for not finishing that damned book. I need to get around to finishing it. I mean, I even finished Ghost Hunting and that book is a train wreck!

I don’t think I’ve ever talked about Ghost Hunting before. All writers have trunk novels, right? Well GH deserves to live in the trunk in a secret compartment so cleverly disguised you’ll never find it again. That book was just awful! It’s the only novel I’ve ever written that I’ve never even tried to edit before. It did teach me a few things like balancing character voices and not to dive into a story before doing all your research, though. The novel had an emphasis on sailing and let me tell you, I don’t know the first thing about boats. I was nowhere near ready to write that book, but the takeaway was that I finished it. Knowing Partners in Crime remains unfinished is like sleeping with sand in my bed. I hate it.

But I can’t give it my full attention just yet. I’ve since moved on to the new shiny thing. After living and breathing LoSaB for a year and a half, I’m ready to move onto the next project. It’s still in the brainstorming phase right now, but I’m getting a handle on the story. There are a lot more component parts to this one and it’s definitely more stew than broth. Maybe when I finally sit down to start that first draft, I can allow myself to knock out Partners in Crime at the same time as a brain break. But right now, I only have so much time to write and if I don’t feel like it’s a constructive use of my time.

Other Worlds Than These

Time has been in short supply these days, but I’ve usually managed to carve out some space for writing. I’m still coming up on the midpoint of the novel and damned if I’m not excited about it.

I don’t know why I’m so surprised at myself at how much I’m enjoying working on this book. Who would spend so much time writing something you didn’t want to, right? I think a large part of it is comparing this novel to my last one. The last book was a fantasy adventure story. It had some great kernels in there that really got me going in the beginning. When I go back and look at the worldbuilding, what at the time felt lush, I see now is really only half baked. There are a few things though: a magic system, a religion maybe, definitely some of the animals, that will show up in my later works. They’re just too cool not too.

The other novel was also the first time that I tried writing a book from multiple perspectives. That ended up being a mixed bag as more than half of them were on the same crew together. Oh right, yes, they were on a sailing ship looking for an ancient secret. When it’s laid out like that, it sounds kind of dull doesn’t it? Anyway, so there were only so many times when the crew would split up – usually fight scenes – that would require different viewpoints to tell the story. Other than that, they often had the same objective. I was just telling it from a different angle each time.

I spent a long time on that book. So much that a third of the way in I felt like I still wasn’t getting the characters right. I scrapped everything and started over. It only added to the overall time commitment. I’ve mentioned before that my rule of thumb is to hit 1k words a day. That’s a minimum as the story progresses. Well, as the book was drawing to a close, I was hitting my 1k, but it was broken up into 500 here, 500 there as I fluttered around it like a hummingbird. I couldn’t bring myself to crank out everything in one go. Whatever had drawn me into that world initially, I had lost by the end. What should have been an exciting build to a conclusion I’d spent months working toward was just some event I couldn’t get to fast enough.

“What happened to that novel?” you ask …

It’s sitting in a digital trunk somewhere. Normally, I dust it off again a few months later for some editing, but that one is still only the rough draft. One of these days I may go back and see what’s what but for now I have other things to do.

Do I regret it? No. There are some good ideas in there that I got to play with and will hopefully see again. I was disappointed for a while and felt like I had nothing to show for my efforts. I don’t make my living off of my writing so there’s only so much time in the day that I can devote to it. Every day that doesn’t produce results is a wasted opportunity. That said, I may not have a viable product with that old novel but it taught me a hell of a lot if only in lessons of what not to do. I’m definitely a stronger writer because of it.

We may yet see a future for Edison Pearce, Annika Draey and the crew of the Gallow’s Ticket, but for now, they were lessons in multiple viewpoints, characterization and running with what made sense over what the plot demanded. I wish them well on wherever their adventures take them and think of them often.