Project Planning

I’ve been thinking a lot about my next project, my career as a writer, and what sort of stories I want to write next.  This has been coming for awhile, I suppose, but this post Kiss of Death: The Renaissance Writer really brought it to a head for me.

One of my weakest skills as a writer is categorizing my own work.  Back around 2007, I finally made it out of the Valley of the Shadow of Death and decided that I had to write for me.  I had learned what kind of story motivated and moved me:  dark, mythology, sacrifice, blood, violence, romance, etc.  Might sound like a strange mix, but that’s me (that’s why May calls me the Sister of the Severed Hand).  Every single thing I’ve written involves mythology and blood in some way.

Except Dear Sir, I’m Yours, which is a whole other beast.  I’ll come back to that thought in a minute.

So I set out to work on the Maya story.  It’s a contemporary setting, heavily based on Maya mythology.  I plotted it heavily — three major story arcs, three POV characters, each with their own goal, coming together in the end for a big show down.  Timing was crucial, placement, etc.  It’s still got problems that I hope to tackle this summer, but I’m really pleased with the level of work I managed on that story.  

The problem?  It’s hard to categorize.  I wanted to write an urban fantasy, but knew I hadn’t.  I’d been calling it contemporary fantasy.   Then May suggested it was more like a Preston/Child thriller.  

I was like, huh?  I never set out to write a thriller.  Yeah, I like darkness, violence, suspense, etc. but a thriller?  Really?  But as I thought about their books I’ve read — Relic, Reliquary, Blood Mountain — I began to see some similarities in the pacing and feel, although I’d say the Maya story has more fantasy than a typical Preston/Child book. It’s still set firmly in the contemporary world and mostly “normal” tools are used to defeat the bad guys.  Magic is not rampant in the world (yet).  i.e. The characters’ world view is very much “normal” until they see the proof unveiled before their eyes.  The book also has a sci-fi feel — even though magic is the mechanism surrounding the Bloodgates, not science or technology.  It feels a lot like Stargate, which I admit is part of the original premise.

So I’m sitting here, reading about that Renaissance Writer who’s an agent’s nightmare, and I realize that’s a warning I need to pay attention to.  How am I going to write an agent query for a thriller, while everything in my backlist is fantasy, sci-fi, or contemporary erotic romance?  

I’m not tackling projects just because I think it’s an “easy sell” as in their example, but I do have very wide interests, as widely as I read.  I mean, my current wip is a Regency Fantasy.  On my storyboards, I have a sci-fi Regency/Steampunk thing in progress.  Don’t even ask about all the strange things I have in the back of my mind, or stored on my harddrive.  (e.g. remember the sports mystery That Man begged me to write?)

So what’s a Renaissance Writer to do?  I know from past experience that I can’t write “to market.”  That leads back to the Valley of the Shadow of Death and I refuse to take that path.  I have to write what I love, with fire and passion and blood on the page.  However, I also need to take a care and ensure that I order my projects in a smart way.  I have to make sure I’m building readership for the projects I have sold, and work toward projects that could share cross-readership.  

Everything is based in fantasy — except Dear Sir.  So as I’ve been mulling over my short and long-term goals, I decided the next project needs to support that readership.  To that end, I’ll work on Victor’s story next.  I’ll build and plot it (while I have 10K in previously written sections — I don’t think I have enough story for a 60-80K book) while I return briefly to Revision Xibalba.  I’ll sub the Maya book while I work on Victor’s story.  Once that first draft is done, I’ll set it aside to work on Revision Hell for Arcana.  I want to keep the fantasy-related pipe filled, definitely, but I need to continue to build the romantic BDSM side as well.

Ironically, there are quite a few ties in the romantic threads from Dear Sir over to, say Road to Shanhasson.  Gregar taught me a lot about sadomasochism.  But someone who loves Dear Sir won’t necessarily try a romantic fantasy trilogy.

So, that’s the plan for the next six months.  Back to MayNoWriMo.