Summer 2018 Wrap Party, Part 3: The Neverending To-Do List

neverending to-do list

 

If it feels like this so-called Summer Wrap Party has been dragging on for weeks, that’s because it has. Thankfully, (for you, me, and the bent-but-not-yet-totally-broken laws of physics), today’s post is the final installment. Cue the trumpets and fireworks! Then, segue into sad trombones, because the only thing longer than this wrap-up is my neverending to-do list.

 

 

The Life of a Writer

In Part 1 and Part 2 of this series, I discussed what I’d been doing for the past few months. With my manuscript revision now standing judgment before distant-and-hopefully-benevolent deities, I can focus on what comes next. And what comes next is… lots and lots of writing.

Finally!

For me, the joy of writing comes in two separate but equally important pieces1. There’s the thrill of successfully translating an idea into a fully-realized multi-hundred-page story. And then there’s the moment when someone reads your finished book and genuinely likes it.

What nobody tells you is just how long that first part might take2. My high-water mark was in 2013 when I was on severance. I managed two books in three months, but they were far from ‘finished’, ‘polished’, or ‘readable’. Since then, I averaged one a year… until this year, where I barely scraped together a short story. Now that I’m writing full-time, I’m hoping my pace will improve again, but there’s no avoiding that it takes far less time to have an idea than it does to write it.

Which leads me to my neverending to-do list.

 

Q: When is a Revision Not a Revision?

A: When it Becomes a Full Rewrite

The Neverending To-Do List - Rewrites and Revisions

Before See These Bones, I wrote four books in my The Many Travails of John Smith series. I spent years sending out queries for the first book, Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, and had some interest, but nothing concrete ever materialized3. I’ve waffled back and forth about self publishing the series, and will still probably do so in the nearish future. However, I’m a much better writer now than I was five years ago. Even if I do self-publish the John Smith series, I’d prefer that its books reflect who I am now as a writer4.

The first item on my to-do list is a full rewrite of the first 30 pages of Investigation, Mediation, Vindication. I always struggle with beginnings, and that flaw is most evident in that book. To make matters worse, there are also some noticeable pacing problems; it starts off slow and then goes insane. My hope is that I’ve improved sufficiently as a writer to solve both issues.

I’m starting by just scrapping the first ~3 chapters of the book. My goal is to pick up in the middle of the action and weave the necessary exposition into the scenes that follow. I’m about 5k words into that revision and it’s going… okay? Maybe? I’d forgotten how much fun it is to write a goofy, slightly-bumbling main character. My bigger concern is how I’ll merge the new text into the rest of the book. The series is full of call-backs–the 4th book might reference minor details from the 1st–so a change this sizable could have a major trickle down effect in terms of more than just polish and style.

It’s possible I’ll end up rewriting the whole damn series. I really, really don’t want to do that.

 

More Post-Apocalyptic Super-Hero Shenanigans

The Neverending To-Do List - Dr. Nowhere

But what about new stuff?!? Excellent question, oh random and faceless internet stranger. To this point, I’ve held off on starting the sequel to See These Bones. With John Smith, I focused on writing, dabbled in querying, and ended up with a four-book series and no readers. This time around, I wanted to give the editing and querying process my full attention. I do have one more round of queries to send out for See These Bones (while I wait for a response to my R&R), but I feel like that will be the end. If nothing develops, it will be time to self-publish. And then I’ll finally get to write the other books in the trilogy.

I’m very excited to write those next two books. I love the idea of writing a series with a concrete, definitive ending, and I’ve known how The Murder of Crows would end from the very beginning5. Let’s just hope I can stick the landing.

I also have a second short to write in the same universe6 I’d have already written (and shared) that short, but it takes place after See These Bones and contains spoilers from that story. It will have to wait for the book to be published.

Finally, I have an entirely separate series to write in the same universe. It’s from the perspective of someone whose superpower is too weak to become a licensed Cape. What do you do when you’re recognizably different, but that difference doesn’t get you anywhere? When you want to defend your country, but are too weak to do so? It should be a fun way to delve into different aspects of my post-apocalyptic superpowered universe.

 

But That’s not All…

The Neverending To-Do List - John Smith

At some point, I also want to ‘finish’ the John Smith series. I have written four books in that series7, with plans for three more8. After that, I’ll let those characters ride off into the sunset9.

But there’s more on my plate than just The Murder of Crows and The Many Travails of John Smith series.

Several years ago, I wrote the opening lines to a post-apocalyptic novella10 but I never went any further with it. I finally have the plot figured out to the point where I’m ready to write it. It will be a stand-alone story, set in its own world, with a Johnny Mnemonic vibe to it. Ironically, I don’t think I’ll use the opening lines I wrote so long ago.

I also have an epic fantasy series waiting to be written. It’s the series I intended to write at the very beginning, and it keeps getting pushed back, despite having the greatest amount of research, effort, and worldbuilding already done. The Stars That Sing was a bit of a dry-run for that series, at least in terms of seeing whether I was capable of writing in the 3rd person perspective11

 

The Neverending To-Do List12The Neverending To-Do List - The Neverending Story

Last week, that was the sum totality of what I had on my plate: eleven books, one short story, and a novella.

Then, I had a dream. And in this dream, a character kept having hiw own recurring dreams about the apocalypse. Only every time he had the dream, both the cast and the setting differed. The character realized he was watching Ragnarok, and not just one Ragnarok, but many. He also realized it wasn’t just the end of Gods, but the end of a universe. Worse, he was watching different universes die every night.

When I woke, I had a new book in my brain, about someone trying to stop the end of their universe, armed only with his own uncertain connection to those dead universes and the information gleaned from his dreams.

Twelve books, one short story, and a novella. Optimistically, I’d be able to write all of that within the next decade13. Realistically, plans will change, series will expand, and newer ideas will appear in my brain, demanding to be written.

That’s how one goal becomes a series of goals, and the series of goals becomes a neverending to-do list.

But honestly? I wouldn’t have it any other way.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Footnotes

  1. The police who investigate crime and the district attorneys who prosecute the offenders. Wait… wrong show.
  2. I’ve been lucky enough to have beta readers that liked my books from the start, so the second part wasn’t as grueling.
  3. As I’ve mentioned before, one of the problems was that I started long before the manuscript was really in a polished state. I blame alcohol and the foolishness of youth.
  4. This is known as the George Lucas fallacy. It happens to all of us.
  5. Yes… everyone dies.
  6. Fire of Unknown Origin
  7. Investigation, Mediation, Vindication, Blood is Thicker Than Lots of Stuff, Ghost of a Chance, and The Italian Screwjob
  8. Dead Man’s Favor, Godswar, and John Smith Doesn’t Work Here Anymore
  9. Or drink beer on the Torrey Pines beach, or whatever it is characters do when their series is done.
  10. Tomorrow, the City
  11. My conclusion: yes, but need more practice.
  12. You had to know this image was coming, right?
  13. Pessimistically, I’ll be exposed as a writing fraud long before then.

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