Looking back, it’s been a while since my last post. A lot has changed. Some has even changed and changed back. Some of that will be addressed in a separate post as I’d rather not dilute it.
My daughter got married a month ago. The wedding took me to St. Louis for the first time in my life. It was hot and humid, but I survived. If nothing else, it gave me new respect for how nice the weather is Seattle.
St. Louis was also surreal because I was there for a week starting about two weeks after the unarmed teen Michael Brown was executed in the streets of Ferguson where his body was left for over four hours. They were even talking about it on the news in the airport newsstand while I was waiting to fly out. But other than talking with one or two family members it might as well have been happening in another country. I was surprised at how segregated, how insulated, communities can be. It was unsettling. But that’s for another post.
I was out there for over a week, and got no writing done while I was there. No editing. No notes. Nothing.
When I got back to Seattle, I realized the time away gave me a bit of perspective on my writing. Back in town for only a few days, I had an epiphany.
Then without warning, this thought: You know, you could just decide NOT to be a writer anymore.
— Nathan Crowder (@NateCrowder) September 4, 2014
See…I’d been working on big projects pretty much all year. With the exception of one short story I turned out for an anthology request, I’d done pretty much nothing but work on novels or novellas, either writing or editing. Burnout was coming around the bend and it was coming hard. Everything I was doing was high labor with no visible progress. There was no end in sight. The novel I was rewriting wouldn’t be done until next year, at the rate I was going. And after that, two sequels loomed.
And for what?
No one was waiting for these novels. No agent. No editor. Quite possibly, no readers. I already have one urban fantasy novel that I’m shopping plus a novella in this strange limbo state with an editor as of this writing. Did I really need one more big project gathering dust?
Add to this that I’ve been reading some truly outstanding novels this summer that highlight for me how much better i want to be. I know that’s crazy and arbitrary and other bullshit. But every author does it–holds themselves up to an icon of some sort and finds themselves lacking. Cue the crippling self-doubts, etc.
As excited as I was (and still am) about the Ravensgate Cycle, I was writing entirely on spec. Ultimately, I was writing these books for me.
They were killing me.
So I stopped. I set Of Rooks and Ravens set aside for later and got other things cleared off my plate instead. And in doing so, several smaller projects popped up.
I started collecting small projects, and then went to a 5 day writing retreat out in Port Townsend run by some truly outstanding writers and human beings. In the evenings, we played games and drank wine, and by day I wrote, and edited. Nothing I touched was longer than 5,000 words. Nothing.
I ended up editing and polishing five mic0-stories, wrote and rewrote three one-page treatments for a possible future collaborative projects, edited and submitted my sun princess story, finished a parade story that a friend dared me to write and gave it two hard edits, and wrote and rewrote two fresh stories that I never would have tried before. It was a productive several days.
Now it’s just the question of where do I go next?
Here’s a glance at some of the signposts.
I’ve made a commitment to do at least one Cobalt City book a year, be it a novel or novella. The first of those is coming out in a few weeks. I’ll also be making Chanson Noir, the early Protectorate novel available as e-book for the first time. Then in November I’ll be writing two new Cobalt City novellas. One stars Gallows and is part Whitney Houston’s Bodyguard and one part Ziggy Stardust with a heap of alien invasion thrown in. The other is sort of Back to the Future from a villain’s point of view and features Libertine. Both are roughly outlined and I’ll be tightening that down next month.
After that, I’m following advice from the writing retreat. Don’t write a series. Write a novel.
Yeah, the Ravensgate Cycle is kind of daunting. But the first novel? Heck! That’s already done. I just need to rewrite and edit. So unless some other project comes out and demands my attention, I’m going back to Of Rooks and Ravens in December. Hopefully I’ll have a good, finished draft by sometime in January.
I can’t decide to NOT be a writer. I never could.
That’s the real epiphany.