My fourth novel, (SF) still awaiting suitable cover art and more free time for re-writes, incorporates world and ecology-building of a journeyman level, including hard and soft science fiction story elements. In this book I experimented with my own comfort zones as a writer, in terms of characters and their sexual preferences. I say this because the unsophisticated will always associate the writer with the thing that most stands out about the story in their own minds.
My fifth novel, (urban fantasy,) is safely in the can. It's a low-key, understated urban fantasy. It was a departure from science fiction into a world that had always impressed me as a little too easy from the writerly point of view—that is to say, ‘if your protagonist gets into a corner, all he has to do is to wave a magic wand and make everything go away.’ I’m not sure if I still feel that way. The rules of fantasy are there if you care to look. ‘Magic is acceptable and expected.’ But another consideration was how to compete in a field where ‘over the top’ is what people seem to be shooting for.
My solution—to downplay the fantasy elements and treat it as literary fiction about life in a small town after the mill closes down, where there just happens to be some shape-shifters running around, will probably fail in this market.
My sixth novel, (SF,) back again to hard sci-fi, allowed me to experiment with the creation of really different characters interacting as a group, while at the same time fine-honing the work, hopefully, showing rather than telling. The number one protagonist—there’s actually more than one—is an entirely humourless, yet still sympathetic character. Like an idiot, I called him ‘Kjarl,’ which any experienced editor would insist that I change. By this time I was comfortable with the pacing of the novel, as these last three came in at 76,000 to 80,000. This is perfect length to begin editing and re-writing the works.
When I look back a couple of years, and think about what I have learned, it does give me some confidence that I can plug away at my next book or story and get the thing done in fairly short order. All I have to do is to write five hundred or a thousand words a day, and keep the first draft a little light on details. This story (my new Maintenon story) was a 360-word start, until someone on Twitter mentioned, ‘a 20-minute writing blitz’ while her dinner simmered on the stove or something. I thought, ‘why not?’ It's up over 20,000 now. An hour a day, and in about a month we’ll be up to 40,000 or 50,000 words.
When I get this one ‘done,’ it would be a good time to make some decisions, about what to publish next. Then the re-write and editing process would take a few more weeks or months. In the meantime, if I stumbled across the perfect artwork, something that I could work with for the marketing image, it would be tempting to do one of the three books I have sitting there. That part is flexible in terms of planning.
Every so often, when I get a spare minute, I go off to morguefile.com or photobucket.com and look for images, as I also want to re-issue ‘Thirty Years Gone,’ in other formats. Right now, it’s on Lulu.com with a plain black cover in the pdf format only.
So basically, we're planning, plotting, and scheming our way through the next few months. Rather than dwell on our weaknesses or past failures, we've been doing some assessing of our strengths, our skills, and our special attributes, insofar as they relate to the future.