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Saturday, November 8, 2008

Really Bad Day and Really Hard Decisions

You know you've had a rough time when a rejection is the best part of your day.

I'm feeling drained, emotionally wrung out. Exhausted, bitter, tired.

And I don't have one specific thing I can point to and go, "Aha! This is all your fault! You did this me! Now you will pay!" Rather, it's a collection of things. Some of this, some of that. And underneath all of it a frustration with rough drafts.

I love writing. I love creating something new. But I'm a horrible and impatient person and Do Not love editing or polishing. I go the wrong way around, perhaps. I don't edit, I rewrite. The chapter is wrong? Redo it entirely, from a new POV. I don't like this scene? Rewrite every chapter from 1 to Here and see if it feels better.

Now I realize rewriting just gives me a new first draft that looks eerily like the last book I wrote, but isn't. I change a scene, change a fact, change a motivation and wind up creating new plot holes and story arcs and problems.

Am I quitting writing? No.

Am I quitting NaNo? Not yet, but it's an option.

Am I burning my computer? No, but I'm retiring the ViS series until further notice. I've spent a lot of time there. Given it a lot of consideration. And realized that there are some major over-arching problems with the series.

The problem with a series like this is that space, time, and physics have a new set of rules. But the rules, whatever they are, have to be set in stone. You can't write one book in isolation when you plan a series. You can't change the rules (unless your name is Terry Pratchett). You can't back down from a series.

I started the ViS with an idea, taking the thought that vampires are real propogated by five billion urban fantasy books and pushed that thought forward in time. Vampires in Space. Vampires, werewolves, shape shifters, 'pathics, aura readers, powers... really cool people with really fast ship and really big guns.

The original story line was a simple, noir-style, murder mystery with a-line skirts, a vampire named Kassandra Troy, a cyborg detective, and a space port. Beautiful, elegant, dark. All the things I love about edgy fiction.

Then things went terribly, horribly, almost indescribably wrong. The universe exploded, expanding to the point where I have over 20 books outlined and more characters walking in daily. Not just one simple story, but dozens of characters, stories, and perspectives.

And I fell in love.

I wanted to write every story right then. I would forgo everything just to get these ideas out of my head and trapped for all time in the cage of words. It's what I desperately wanted. Until the fatal attraction wore off and I realized just how much work these wild ideas needed. They are not tame. They are not sterilized. And they are not Mary Sue free. In fact, they really aren't all original.

Noble hero saves day - blech.

All powerful being needs help from dashing hero - blech

The butler did it - shoot me NOW.

Is the series worth salvaging? Yes. Most the characters are well fleshed out in my mind. Some of the story lines can work for basic bone structure, but need tension and layering added. A few ideas will be taken out back, shot, and dropped in the river but such things are - at times - necessary.

The real question is do I have the chops to do these stories justice right now. And the answer is, no. I can see it in my head. I have an idea. But this isn't a small cast story. It isn't a simple character driven story. It's a sprawling series that is going to make the Roman Empire look like Utica, Kansas (pop. 192).

I have quite a few other ideas in the works. Stand alone books with smaller casts that won't demand I rewrite the universe. Stories and characters I like. I've been told that, on average, it takes ten books for an author to progress to the point where they are well known. I don't see that being a problem.

The economy is in recession. It'll get out of recession. The stock market goes up and down but DC still exists so it isn't going to actually vanish. Publishing houses are being conservative with their buying power. That's fine. It gives me time to write. I'll get out there, test the water with some stand alone novels, and eventually - one day - get back to ViS.


  1. I know how you feel, and just realize you aren't alone. It's debilitating when some of the veneer rubs off and we see there's a lot more work than we ever imagined in front ofus. It's hard doing a job that the feedback is constantly "not good enough'.

    Taking a break or changing your focus can get you back on track. One thing I try to remind myself is that I don't need to be 'on' all the time--I can have bad days (weeks!) too, and it's okay. No one can be a cheerleader for themselves and others all the time.


  2. Lei, you are doing great. :)

    Your ViS universe sounds awesome - although very overwhelming for you. I think you have amazing ideas, and an amazing talent. You writing is crisp and clean, and some of the best I've run across on CC.

    I sometimes wish I had more ideas floating around in my head, but one sticks, usually, and that's it. I'm thinking this a blessing about right now....


    Take time to figure out what you want to do. Step back from stuff that's overwhelming you, and come back to it later. It will be there when you want it to be.

  3. :) Thank, Angela, you're a sweetie.

  4. *hands LG some ideas*

    Take them! I have too many!

  5. Sometimes you have to go down the wrong road to discover the right road. Nothing is ever wasted. Not a rejected manuscript. Certainly not the time spent working on a project that may have to be shelved until you have more power over the words and more credibility with editors.

    You're absolutely right about publishers being conservative. That's not necessarily bad because it forces writers to really focus on the marketability of a story and to hone their skills.

    It sucks. But sometimes life just plain sucks and excrement happens. Just wipe away the poop, recharge, and go forward. Or as the hero on Galaxy Quest says: Never give up. Never surrender!

  6. Revising can seem harder than the real writing: that's because when you're writing you're usually just letting the words flow out of you without thinking (at least, I am). When you're editing and revising, you have to think about every single thing that you do. Every full stop, every comma, every single spelling. It's exhausting and it seems like a mountain ahead of you. But it's worth it in the end.

  7. *hugs*

    It hurts so much to cut a series loose like that, to know that however much you love it, right now you just can't do it justice.

    I have one like that. It hurt; sometimes it still hurts. But I WILL go back to it one day, and no matter how much it hurts I know that because of this, when I eventually make my way back there, the story will be stronger because of it.

    Just promise me you won't give up.

  8. *offers cookies* It is tough, and sometimes necessary, but you still have a lot of good ideas, so if taking a break from ViS is what you need to do, good for you for doing it.

    Yeah, it sucks sometimes to have to shelve a project or series or world or whatever, but look at it as a sign you're growing enough as a writer to realize when you need distance and need to focus on less expansive projects for awhile. :)

    (I've been putting off rewriting one novel and its world for over a year and a half now because I still don't feel I've got what it takes to do the story justice. I really WANT to do it, but I'm still pretty sure I'm not skilled enough to pull it off the way I know it needs to be done.)

    ViS will still be there when you're ready to pick it up again.

    In the meantime, keep writing (Skippy? please?) and believe you'll make it one day. :)

    ~Merc (who, alas, sucks at pep talks but whatever)