Monday, March 15, 2010

Writing projects - whither to turn?

Right now I have four novels in various states of disrepair. And, amongst the diverse demands of life in general, I am anxious to spend my limited reserves of writing energy wisely.

So anxious, in fact, that I find I'm dithering in a state of analysis paralysis over where to turn next.

First up, there's Ghosts of Innocence. Finished, revised, and actively querying for representation. This is the story of an assassin, Shayla Carver, out for revenge for the destruction of her home world.

Then there's The Ashes of Home. Sequel to Ghosts of Innocence, this finds Shayla, now a planetary governor, trying to rebuild her home world but surrounded by many enemies she made during her former life. Those who survived, anyway. About 8,000 words written, a few complete scenes and several partial bits. I have an idea of the general outline but much of the detail needs working out.

I broke off from this when I had an idea out of nowhere for Electrons' Breath. This is a near-future post-global-warming story, where humanity clings on with some high-tech help to survive in a violent storm-wracked world. Again, a few scenes written (13,000 words) and a general outline.

Finally, there's A Million Miles From Anywhere. Yes, I know the title sucks. It's a working title while I look for something better. Set on a ringworld, with all its potential for geography on a truly cosmic scale, this follows a group of travelers stranded and facing a million-mile hike to the nearest centre of population. This was actually an earlier attempt at a novel, which I got about half-way through then set aside in favour of Ghosts of Innocence. I recently unearthed it and decided that, while it still needs a shedload of work, there's a lot of good material there and I now have a good chance of knocking it into shape and introducing some of the snap and tension that it lacks.

So, the analysis...

Ghosts of Innocence: Intend to keep plugging away at queries in small batches. I really enjoyed writing this, and I'm proud of it. Whenever I pick it up and open at a random page, I enjoy reading it. If it ever makes it to publication, then so much the better. I'm not going to give up until I run out of agents.

That bit was easy, but now for the hard part...

The Ashes of Home: I like Shayla, and I like her world. I also think this style of action adventure suits me. I thoroughly enjoyed the bits I've written so far, but was starting to be put off by the thought of investing effort into a sequel to something that may never see publication. Somehow, that felt self-indulgent, and maybe the guilt of that was sapping my enthusiasm.

Electrons' Breath: Started off as an inspired thought, the first few scenes more-or-less wrote themselves, and then dried up. Got some encouraging feedback from an online writing group I belong to and set forth once more with renewed determination. Then dried up again. I'm sure there's a good story there, probably more topical and marketable than Shayla's shenanigans. But right now the story and the characters just don't excite me. They feel slightly flat and sterile. Something is holding me back from enjoying this story.

Million Miles: I like this world, too. I'd love to see it finished. And it has the advantage of already being half-written. Disadvantage: the half that's written needs substantial revision and editing.

I think I just talked myself into setting aside Electrons' Breath for now and letting it perk for a while.

But ... Ashes? ... or Million Miles?

What would you do next?


  1. I'm in a very similar place. I just 'finished' Trust and thought I was ready to query it, but now I'm thinking I'll let it sit for a month and then do one final nitpick run to cut wordcount if at all possible. It's sitting at a daunting 118k. eek!

    I too, love my world and characters and so I'm staring at the three other novels on my hard drive that are begging for attention (and would probably end up a more marketable length),but ultimately ignoring them in favor of revising the partial rough draft of Trust's sequel.

    Why, when as you said, the first novel may never go anywhere? Because I'm not ready to put those particular characters to rest yet. I'm in their head space and their world. I likely won't follow the sequel through to 'final draft status' but I do want it in a workable (not totally embarrasing)form so that if the first one does find a home, I'm ready with "Hey, I also have this sequel in the works, would you like to take a look at it?"

    At least have a few first chapters ready and the outline complete before you go wander off to a different novel world. Hey, it never hurts to be prepared and optimistic, right? :)

  2. Thanks Jean. Glad to know I'm not alone in this dilemma.

    I suspect I will end up flipping between "Ashes" and "Million Miles", using each in turn to give myself a rest from the other.

    At first I was so pleased just to finish "Ghosts" (and, BTW, I spent a full year between "finishing" and actually being ready to query) but now I need to remind myself that the point is, first & foremost, to enjoy the writing process. So, yes, I'll darned well write what I enjoy, and so what if I'm the only one who ever reads it?

    Hmm...118k may be a bit on the heavy side. I've got a similar problem with "Million Miles", 70k and only about half-way there. Some serious trimming in order :-) Good luck with it!


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