I’ve no intention of using this blog as a diary. However, every now and again I have, and will continue to use this space to talk about my process, or the non-process of my writing. This is one of those posts.
In the past year I have talked about my struggles to maintain a novel a year pace. I spent the better part of 2019 auditioning different story ideas in my head. Three or four of them made it all the way to the writing phase, with anywhere from 4,000 to 14,000 words written before I abandoned them. What I found hard was not the setting, nor the characters. Plots proved somewhat problematical, but at least at the beginning they seemed do-able, and I probably could have worked them out, if I had cared enough about the story. The core problem was simply maintaining any enthusiasm for the various stories. At some point in the process, I looked ahead at the story I had in mind, and realized that in some way I’d been there done that, or read something too similar, and because of that, it bored me.
I suppose, if I was making a living in this racket, and under a contract, I could’ve gotten down to work and written them all the way to the end. But since I’m doing this for fun – if it wasn’t fun, I wasn’t doing it. And I’m writing stories I like, and if I don’t like it, why would I spend months working on it?
In the end, I circled back around to one of my first ideas, a sequel to Sailing to Redoubt. That book’s sales don’t, at this point, justify a sequel, in my opinion, and that was a big knock against that idea. Plus, try as I might, I couldn’t think of enough original ideas to make a long novel out of it, since I didn’t want to do storms, pirates, and lost cities again, and didn’t have any better ideas. But then, in desperation, I decide to scale back the story to just tell the story I knew that I wanted to to tell, without trying to invent some elaborate adventure to fill the story out. Suddenly the project looked do-able. To hell with the word count. That plan worked out well. I knew what I needed to write, and I knew that I needed to write the story sooner or later, since it completed Sailing to Redoubt, even though it could not be made fit into that story, realistically.With the story in mind, it took only 61 day from start to publishing The Prisoner of Cimlye. Now, while 54,000 words is a short novel for me, it is a pretty bog standard novel in the fast lane of indie-publishing. And when I look further back, to the science fiction novels of my youth, they were often only 35,000 – 55,000 words long.
So, in the end, I produced my 2020 novel, with eight months to spare. Theoretically I now have 20 months to produce another one to a keep on a novel a year schedule.
My original intention was, and may still be, to write another short, “episode” length novel sometime this year. I have a vague story in mind. Well, it's more of a setting than a story, but, as before, I currently lack the necessary enthusiasm turn it into an actual story.
So, faced once more, with my old roadblock, I’ve been thinking that perhaps my problem is that I’d trying to dream up stories: i.e. books with plots that my readers would enjoy. Instead, maybe I should be simply daydreaming. Daydreaming up a set of characters that I want to hang with. Daydreaming about a place I would like to explore. And daydreaming scenes that may evolve, eventually into a story. In short, stop trying to write a book in my head. And instead, live an imaginary life that I could, maybe, tell a story about, someday.
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