Monday, June 27, 2016

I'm setting aside everything else to finish  "Fires of Allah," my terrorists-setting-wildfires book.

(I've had a number of titles for this, but this title best reflects the contents, even if it isn't inspired. "Not by Water, But by Fire" is an intriguing title, "Devil's Forge" is short and pithy, but neither really get across the contents.)

I was half done before I stopped. I was waylaid by a big time agent and a mainstream publisher, who were considering it. I got a rejection from the former and no answer from the latter, so I'm moving on.

(This was the "100 kickass pages" the agent asked for--which I still think is an asinine request. The book ain't done until it's done, and to Micheal Bay it is to cheapen it, as far as I'm concerned.)

While I was waiting, I assembled a bunch of research material.

I like the book, and it's a hell of a premise, and you can't say it isn't timely.

So I'm going full tilt on it for the next month, with the goal of having it finished and edited by August 1, with a cover by Mike Corley.

This is exciting. I needed the challenge. It will be fun write.

So off I go...down the rabbit hole.
It's hard to spend so much time on rewriting. I don't enjoy it, but it's necessary, especially since I've written so much over the last three years.

The first year was like a fever. The second year, I still had the energy and desire to keep up the pace. The third year was moderating, setting limits, but still writing at a very productive level.

The fourth year so far has been trying to tie up all the loose ends from those crazy first three years.

I'm glad the way it worked out. I knew that the kind of creative mania I felt in the first three years (especially that first year!) was unusual and probably wouldn't continue. (Plus the "real" world could intervene at any time.) So stopping to clean up seemed like a bad idea at the time.

But after 3 years I looked back and realized that about half of that production was useless unless I took the time to fix things.

But wow, I got so far ahead of myself that I could probably stop writing now, clean up what I've written, and call it a career!

I'm hoping that finishing Devil's Forge and Tuskers IV (both half-written) will satisfy my creative urges and keep my mojo.

If not, I'll grab some wild idea out of the air and write it on a lark and have fun again. I can still feel that urge lurking. Seems to work best if I don't overthink it. Wild pigs bothering a friend, write a joke short chapter and then turn it into a serious book! Vampires--so, so overdone, but dammit I feel like it! Weird westerns? Sure, why not? Faerie Punk, I like it! Gangster Golems? Go for it!

The spirit of fun is what makes it all worthwhile. Fuck the "bleeding words on a page" idea. The idea is to go on an adventure, and hopefully others will want to come along.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

I think I need to allow myself to give up on books if they aren't working.

This is the fifth full rewrite of Faerylander (over 40 versions). I've split it into 2 books (Zombielander), and I now think I've got something.

But what a slog.

I'm not sorry I did this. If nothing else, I've learned something from each rewrite. I'm getting a sense of structure and plot and characterization and process that I could only learn through trial and error.

But the truth is, I could have written at least two or three other books in the time it's taken me to try to fix one book.

I like the ideas behind this series, I like the characters, I like some of the writing. And I have the added incentive of having written a couple of later books in the series which don't need reworking. (Another lesson learned--don't write a book further along in the series if the first book isn't working...)

Anyway, one of the main rules I had when I came back to writing was to finish whatever I started. It is too easy to write 3 or 4 or 5 chapters and give up. Or give up at the first sign of trouble. I wanted to avoid that.

But I don't think I have to worry about my finishing books anymore. I've done a ton of them.

I have become a better writer by writing. I can become an even better writer by writing some more.

So going backward, trying to prop up books that didn't pass muster the first time, is foolish.

So that's another lesson learned.

1.) Don't do continuing stories. It's fine to do a series, as long as each book is a standalone. As much as I like Tuskers and The Vampire Evolution Trilogy, they were hard to do. I'd say that each continuing volume was twice as difficult as the volume before.

Whereas, writing a series with the same characters but that aren't dependent on the previous book to make sense is much much easier.

2.) By all means, rewrite. But once you've set the story down, don't go changing the basic plot. Adding and subtracting are okay. Changing words is okay. But moving chapters around, changing the timeline of events, that's a no no. The whole structure falls apart.

3.) If the book does fall into that trap or requires changing in that way, it is probably better to give up on it altogether and go on to the next thing.

The trap is that it always seems like a easy fix but never is. You can't take the jigsaw puzzle apart once it's been carved.

Like I said, I'm glad now that I managed to save Faerylander, to improve it, to make it into two books.

But damn, it was hard.

Tuesday, June 21, 2016

2/3rds of the way through Zombielander and I reached an impasse. The same impasse I'd hit before.

How to integrate the last third of the book.

It doesn't seem an insurmountable problem, certainly I'm in a better place than when Faerylander and Zombielander were one book. But the chapter I have in place just doesn't feel right.

I decided to take a day or two before proceeding and try to come up with a solution.

So I think I have, in theory at least. I have a path forward, which is what I needed.

First, the crucial chapter feels like it would work better told from another character's perspective.

Secondly, I need to consolidate the timeframe so that the responses by the characters make sense. Or alternatively, expand the timeframe.

I either need to remove or move another chapter.

This is all work. It is all in my head, which is not the way I prefer to tell my stories. But I have a feeling this is probably how most other writers go about things. Much more thought rather than just instinct.

I prefer stories that come together on their own without any interference from me, so to speak.  But I also assume that the original story is still there, and all I'm doing is crafting a better plot to fit the story into.

At least I hope so. I long ago passed over from "feeling" this story to "puzzling out" this story. I've noticed in the past, the readers don't really see this. If the story works, it works, and it doesn't matter how I arrived there.

It's just more fun for me not to have to constantly rewrite trying to get it right.

Really, this is a matter of "sunk costs" and I'm going to try very hard to avoid this situation in the future.

I've worked so hard and so long on this book(s) that I don't want to give up now. In fact, when I'm done with this rewrite, I'll probably set them aside and come back one more time next year before publishing and give them one more go-around.

Starting today, I have 10 days to get this right.

Then I really, really want to get on to something new.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Took the day off from writing, and it felt a little strange.

I don't want writing to become a job, a chore, an onerous task. It has to be something I want to do, that I feel compelled to do.

But being compelled and it becoming a burden aren't all that far removed.

When I take time off, I can almost feel my creative energies returning. I have an almost concrete image in my mind of a well that is filling back up with water. That moment of eagerness returns when the water overflows,  I think that's when my best writing comes.

Part of my process has been to refine that. For instance, I used to allow myself to write 3 or 4 or 5 or more thousands words in a day. But I've sort of pulled myself back and try to limit myself to between 1500 and 2500. That leaves enough energy for the next day. (However, if I was really really feeling it, I'd still write beyond that.)

At the same time, though, I don't want to get too far away from the habit of writing every day. I don't want to lose that feeling of being antsy if I don't write.

So... it's just a day off. Probably shouldn't make a big deal out of it. But it's rare enough that I feel like commenting on it.

There you go, commenting on nothing happening... Writing about nothing at all, because by God I have to write something.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I'll be spending the rest of this month rewriting Zombielander.

I think I've figured out a way to conclude the Faery versus Cthulhu storyline and at the same time leave it open to a third book later on. Which is a great solution. Leaves me with the ability to publish the four Lander books I have, and still be able to folow it with the fifth book if I want...or not.

Meanwhile, I never know for sure when I'm writing one book which book I'll want to write next, but I'm leaning toward doing my terrorists-setting-wildfires book, "Devil's Forge."

If nothing else, for timeliness sake. It's half written. Most of the plot has been set up. The only parts that still needs to be written are the action chapters, which are usually the easiest to write. The only real question is how much research to do. I've been clipping out articles about wildfires for about a year, and setting aside books.

The other thing I'm not sure about is do I research ahead of time-- thus using the research in the plot of the book? Or do I research after the plot has been laid down --thus using it to add verisimilitude? The latter is easier than the former, the former is probably more useful than the latter, but much harder to motivate myself to do.

I probably shouldn't say it, but I wing my plots. I feel them. I trust my subconscious. It's all about story.

Interestingly, I had drones as a major part of my plot, and since, I've learned that indeed, drones are being used in wildfires. I think I arrived at this on my own, but maybe I heard a mention of it, or maybe it was just logical.

Anyway, I'm either going to finish "Devil's Forge" or finish "Tuskers IV" both of which are already half written.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

I have a problem. I've written too many books.

So far, I've been careful. In the five years I've been serious about writing, I've had the 3 Virginia Reed books and the 3 Tuskers books (as of October) released. BOTD released all 3 Vampire Evolution books on the same day, and I've released two other books on my own.

That's pretty freaking prolific right there. But I've got a BUNCH more books.

I'm not going to try to defend this. I know someone might say, "that's not writing, that's typing." But that is pretty dismissive of how diligent I've been. I mean, you guys have no idea how much time and effort I've put into this. I love doing it, don't get me wrong. But I'm not dabbling. (If you want to be prolific, just have no other life...)

I have books I've finished rapidly that are pretty damn good, and books I've worked on for 4 years and which still aren't up to snuff. 

I've been steadily writing for 5 years, hardly ever skipping a day.

By splitting "Faerylander" into 2 books (or 3) I've freed up 4 books (or 5).

Add that to the 5 books that I've finished that are ready to go at any time. (4 out of 5 have been edited and have covers), that's a crazy number of books.

I also have the reissue of my 3 1980's published books (combined into 2) almost ready to go. I have 2 other books I finished in the 80's that are done (plus a new sequel.)

I have a number of books that I've written that need to be rewritten, if I ever have the time.

And in the meantime, I'm not really slowing down.

If I were to release the FINISHED books every 3 months, which would be a pretty rapid pace, it would still take 4 years to get all the current books out. Even if I slowed my pace by half, in four years I'd still have a bunch of NEW books finished.

Meanwhile, I have the books with publishers that I don't want to dilute the impact of--"The Darkness You Fear" just came out and needs 4 or 5 months for its own window. "Tuskers III" is coming out in October. A "Tuskers IV" (the concluding book) is in the works; and I have a 4th Virginia Reed book planned.

What the hell do I do?

It might be different if I was younger, but I'm at an age when a few years might matter.

What to do?

I want each individual book to be taken seriously. I don't want to dump them out there.

This is not a problem I expected to have. It's not a humblebrag, it really is a logistical problem.

It's not about the money. I've forgone so much money by not working my store that no realistic amount of payback from writing will ever cover it.

It's not about fame and fortune. But like I said, I want each book to stand on its own merits and drowning the market is no way to go about that.

Basically, I'm going to just keep writing to the end of the year and take the lay of the land. I figure one of two things will happen--either there will be more action on the publisher front (which, except for Tuskers IV, isn't looking that likely) or I'll be free to do as I will without regard to stepping on the publishers toes.

If there is more action on the publisher front (and other than what's out there right now, I'm not intending to pursue that) then I would seriously considered putting books out as D.M. McKinnon.
(McKinnon being my middle name).

If I'm trying to cooperate with publishers (which as far as sales results are concerned is a much better proposition) I'm thinking I'd have two tiers.

Tier One: The Duncan McGeary books. Paying for top line covers and editing. 2 or 3 books a year, through publishers if possible, by myself if not.

Tier Two: The D.M. McKinnon books. Doing it all myself. Plunking them out every 3 months like clockwork.

I'd rather have all my books as Duncan McGeary, obviously. But I'm thinking it may not be possible without completely ruining the "brand."

But if I just start plunking D.M. McKinnon books out there without any fanfare whatsoever, they will sink into the ocean of books without a trace. (Not that that is all that different from what is already happening...)

Such a weird problem to have.