Hellfire. What a start to the new year. I've just finished editing almost 160,000 words, 566 pages. Went through the hard copies and transferred to soft.
One novella, Wolfish, and one novel, Creeper's Cottage.
Kicking back with a beer and contemplating how best to rejoin the real world.
Just sent them out to my trusted beta readers.
It's been quite an experience. I've never had two novels completed so close together, and they're in very different styles. Wolfish is first person and highly poetic, a lot like Rosy Hours and Children of Lir. Whereas Creeper's Cottage is a complex third-person, multi-character ghost story, more like Lucid. I'm very curious to see the feedback. I've suspected for a while that to write something special, I need to go with poetic form. It really showcases the type of language that gets you noticed. On the other hand, contemporary is quite good fun to write. I just worry it's not as appealing to readers. But I might be wrong - two different audiences.
Is the idea that you have to stick to one style dead in the 21st century? Part of me hopes so, but it makes approaching submissions difficult. If you sell something off the back of one style, you may bottom out with the second.
Creeper's Cottage carries an extra nervous rattle as it's based on a creative commons world created by an established author. If he doesn't like it, I may have to burn the manuscript in shame.
All of this has taught me a lot, though.
I am very clear about what I want to write next, and I think I need to hit a spot between floaty prose and contemporary. I need to learn how to do that.
I also need a break.
Writing is habitual, and it's fun, but every writer needs to recharge their batteries - and pay rent. So I plan on doing some socialising over the coming months. I have a house part to plan, and a trip to Maasai Mara with friends. Hopefully I'll return from that so knackered that all I'll want to do is slump in front of my keyboard and type.
But I've also learned that I need to plan better.
I've always been a die hard pantser. I like not knowing where I'm going. But that didn't work so well for me with Creeper's. Juggling all those characters was complicated, and I found myself getting really irritated during the edit, falling down plot holes and having to work out where to shoehorn in the missing details. My stories usually fall quite neatly into place, but this one came out mangled.
By the time I get to the edit I'm usually quite tired. I like sitting back to enjoy my story. Polishing the grammar, but letting the story wash over me as a reader. Creeper's was a bit stressful. I'd rather not do that again.
My next novel has the heart-pull factor of Rosy Hours and Georg[i]e, in that I have to tell it. I really, really want to tell it. The theme speaks to me. But the rest is a blur.
For the first time ever, I'm going to sit down with a piece of paper and work it out chapter by chapter. Not in minute detail. Not to the point I grow bored of it before I start writing. But now that I feel I've cracked the technique, my writing needs a little structure to hold everything up.
Still, two novels submission-ready and it's only January.
I'm planning to hold these two back as competition entries, just because the money's better. If they bottom out, I'll consider other approaches. Or maybe they're both bottom-drawers. I'm comfortable with that nowadays. I have several in my own personal slush pile. But you learn something from every novel you write.
That doesn't always mean the next thing you go on to write is a solid step forward. We all regress. We all write things because we feel like it, not necessarily because we should. As I get older, I start to feel the pressure of time a little more. A novel can take up to a year to write, and up to two years to hit publication. You need to start choosing your projects.
Hopefully a bit of rest will see me right (or write) again.