As is often the case when starting a big writing project, a writer finds himself at a crossroads. My writing pilgrimage began in the summer of 2009 with the intent to write the first book in an epic fantasy series. 15 months and 90,000 words later, I discovered that the market currently does not support first novelists with long books (meaning 120,000 words is the ceiling). Since my book was on pace for 180,000 words, I was going to be significantly over the acceptable limit.
What to do? Stop writing and grumble about the state of the market? Resurrect old writing projects, like a romantic comedy screenplay? Read some more how to books? Play a new video game?
Or all of the above, in my case. So how is this a novel update? After several weeks of writerly angst and some very good advice from my wife, who is also my muse, I decided to write a “prequel” novel to my epic fantasy series that is much shorter and more suitable for the current market.
Why do this?
Here are the benefits:
- I’ve already done all the world building for this series of books. Many of the same characters are already developed and a prequel just captures events when they are younger.
- The prologue to my last year’s big novel is actually the end of what will be the prequel.
- The whole story deepens and all characters have much greater motivations be telling the story in the prequel.
- Just like The Hobbit is the prequel to The Lord of the Rings trilogy, my prequel will tell an earlier, but essential beginning to the overall story and sets the stage nicely for all this is come.
- The last year’s big novel will need far less back story and fewer flashbacks because those events will actually occur in the prequel.
- When I resume writing last year’s big novel, I will already be half-finished.
- I will be a better writer after the prequel is written and will be able to add new skill to complete last year’s novel.
So, the very short version of the update is that I’m starting a new novel with a working title of “The Lost Tower.” For those who recall, last year’s big novel was called “The Tower” but is now entitled “The Codex of Shrines.”
I am currently outlining the story and writing new character biographies. I expect to begin writing the first draft by the first of February. I did not outline last year, so I expect to be more focused and more productive with fewer stalls or detours this year.
As a reader, we don’t often realize what happens backstage with the writer and his story before it is published. We only see the books on the shelves or online in a catalog. Often each published novel has an interesting story of its own in how it came to be. And hopefully THAT story is not more interesting than novel itself.
May we all overcome perceived roadblocks in our pursuit of goals and at year’s end be able to look back with satisfaction at what we have accomplished.