Passion

As any good writer knows, you can’t wait for inspiration to write. Not if you want to write for a living. It’s a muscle that needs to be trained. You can write without the muse and can still end up writing good material. There are better posts than this one all about art versus the craft of writing, but I can condense it all down for you. Spoiler alert, it usually boils down to discipline.

No. For today, I want to talk about Inspiration’s sister, passion.

Yes, it’s possible to write without passion, but your readers will feel it. Passion for what you’re working on infuses every word on the page. It’s what keeps that excitement and energy going through the marathon slog from that first blank page to writing “The End” thousands upon thousands of words later.

I’m not a full time writer. I have a day job I need to balance with my (hopefully) burgeoning writing career. So that means, I can only really work on one project at a time. I’m trying to be better about that, though. The best I can do right now is while I wait for edits on one book, I’m doing the research, brainstorming, and worldbuilding for the next one so by the time I’m completely finished Book A, I’m all set for Book B.

I had the kernel of an idea: scientists discover a beacon from the deep and go down to investigate. I worked and worked on it until it became this story about a crashed spaceship and extraterrestrial cover ups. Hence, my last post about the research I was doing. But then something happened. The story became more about the government conspiracy than what originally got me excited about the project in the first place: exploring the deep, dark ocean.

Ideas change. Concepts evolve as you work on them. Your end result rarely looks like what you originally thought it would be. These things tend to happen. But somewhere along the way, I’d completely lost the passion I once held for the project. It started feeling like something I had to do and not something I wanted to do. I’m not going to lie, I actually got pretty depressed about it.

Here I’d spent all this time working on an outline and characters and concept for something that was going to make me miserable to work on it. Or I could throw it all away and start fresh, wasting all of that development time making me miserable for squandering resources.

It was a hard decision, but ultimately, I decided to start something new. Well, new-ish. I’ve been cooking up a fantasy setting for quite some time and while I was waiting for reader feedback from my last novel, I wrote a “practice” short story in that world to test the worldbuilding waters so to speak. Turns out I love it. So much so, that I’m working on selling that piece and I now want write an entire novel in that setting.

I wanted someone to tell me it was okay to abandon the other work and switch to something else. Once I made that decision for myself, though, I knew it was the right one. I’m not one to give up or chase flights of fancy. I like to think I have pretty good work ethic – hence why I was feeling bad about the situation. But this has already proven to be the right decision.

I have passion for this new story. My initial concept for it morphed and changed and grew from that tiny kernel just the like the other one did, but I didn’t lose the spark this time. I’m excited to get started. Excited to work on these characters. Excited to see this world. It’s my most ambitious novel yet and I should be quaking in my boots. Honestly, the spaceship one might be easier. But go big or go home, right?

That’s not to say that all the research and work I’ve done on the other story is totally wasted. Who knows? Maybe I’ll come back to it one day and resurrect it in some form or another. Or maybe I’ll pick at its corpse for the stuff I still like. I really do plan on writing a novel about a discovery at the bottom of the ocean. But for right now, it looks like I’ll be writing something else.

So while you can’t wait for inspiration to strike, you can at least lean into the work you enjoy doing. Your enthusiasm will help carry you through. If you’re not excited about the book, why would your readers be?

Blackhat Noodle Scratcher

My new book is going to have a space ship in it.

Oh? That’s not enough for you? You want more? Kidding.

But yes, it will involve the exploration of a downed spaceship. One that’s crashed onto our planet and has been forgotten about for decades. I wanted to tie it into real-world UFO studies/history and thought it would be cool to have a UFO conspiracist (is it still a conspiracy if it’s real? Advocate maybe?) character to help explain all of that to unfamiliar readers. This character can rattle off case studies and sightings. That kind of thing.

One big problem, though. Aside from the Roswell crash, I didn’t know any of the other major ones. So I started researching.

First off, I found this amazing resource here, aptly titled Best UFO Resources. It’s been a godsend of information all painstakingly catalogued and organized.

I just got through UFOs: What to Do an internal document published by the RAND corporation and the Rockefeller-sponsored UFO Briefing Document – The best available evidence and I gotta tell you, this is fascinating stuff!

Growing up, we’ve always been interested in UFOs and the paranormal in my house so this was very much going home again for me. What I didn’t realize was just how much information was really out there.

Some of these cases are really well documented and the sightings were seen by many, many people. So whatever it was, something happened. It’s incredible to read about how the agendas of the organizations specifically created to investigate this stuff ended up changing over the years. Take project Blue Book for instance. That was the Air Force’s designated UFO research group but it eventually turned into a smear campaign against the very thing it was supposed to be investigating. That’s probably a book in itself.

Anyway, as I’m working on my own world building for the book I’m going to write, I’m struck with a few weird inconsistencies.

So even with the mountain of reports and anecdotal evidence I’m reading, I still can’t help but think of the Fermi paradox. If the math says there should be other intelligent life out there, where are they?

Then we get into the sightings reported in this UFO research. If extraterrestrials have been visiting Earth for some time to study us why are the ships so different? There’s some frequent shapes in the sightings but saucers, orbs, cylinders, and triangles all strike me as very different craft. So are these the same species with different kinds of tech?

I mean a B-52 Bomber doesn’t look like a helicopter but there’s still SOME design consistency.

So what’s up with the different ships? Are they all different races? In which case, that means that multiple races are all interested in Earth of some reason either A. independently of each other or B. as part of some larger conglomeration. But if that was the case, why so many? Wouldn’t one report back be enough to satisfy that coalition group?

Maybe I’m answering my own question here. If different races keep visiting us as evidenced by the different designs of their craft, then that means they aren’t working together BUT they’re all interested in something about our planet.

I wonder what that is.

These are the kinds of questions I need to figure out for my new book if I’m going to make any headway with it.

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.