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.

5 thoughts on “Project Planning

  1. An excellent article, and along with your post, set me to thinking–fantasy is definitely my base, but I want to write sf also and I like mixing history, mythology, magic, and the supernatural–which, I guess, pretty much leads me back to fantasy writing. Sometimes, though, despite what we think we’re writing, we surprise ourselves. d:)

  2. You know, I remember reading the intro to one of Stephen King’s books where his agent sounded pained at the idea of him doing another horror novel. This was way early in his career, maybe the third or fourth book in. He was pitching the agent (for The Shining, maybe?) and the agent looked at him and said, “Another horror story? Are ou sure? Do you really want to pigeonhole yourself like that, Steve?”

    That’s a paraphrase, of course (it’s been a looong time since I read it), but it strikes me funny that it seems the market has swung the completely opposite direction in the intervening years. Back then, they wanted Renaissance writers, I guess, and now, they’re a publisher’s nightmare. Funny, that.

    Especially funny considering that, for every IT, there’s a “Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption”, and for every “Cujo” there’s a “The Body” (or, for those who’ve only seen the movie, Stand By Me).

    He turned into a Renaissance man, after all. Heh.

    Anyway, my point is that it’s so hard to limit yourself to one thing when creativity is your life’s blood, but you have to limit yourself to gain/grow an audience in the cutthroat would of publishing — or you at least have to convince a publisher that you’ve limited yourself. You have to convince them before even having a chance to win paying readers. *sigh*

    Why did we pick this vocation again?

  3. Hi, Debra, great to see you! I consider my base “mythology” but I do find myself writing things that have other elements, whether supernatural, romance, even mystery. I do surprise myself quite often!

    Sis, someone once told me “but you ain’t Stephen King.” Or something like that. He has a massive fan base who would read anything he wrote. The “common” writer doesn’t always have that luxury. I’ve seen people who loved Rose but hated Beautiful Death — they just didn’t get it. It was too different. So now I’m going to throw in the Maya “thriller” and whatever else tickles my fancy? I may lose the people who enjoyed Rose. So I get the point.

    As soon as I said this, though, I got a brand new idea yesterday, and it isn’t romance, or fantasy, or even sf with nary a drop of mythology to be seen!

  4. If you don’t listen to the I Should Be Writing podcast, I would suggest at least listening to the latest Scott Sigler interview. Scott’s interview isn’t until the midway point of the podcast, but what he has to say is worth listening to, especially if you’re a Renaissance Writer. Here’s a link: http://isbw.murlafferty.com/2009/05/12/isbw-116-back-to-basics-scott-sigler-interview/

    I think what he has to say about traditional publishing and self-publishing working hand-in-hand for an author has a ring of truth in it. If Crown Publishing only wants to buy and sell his horror fiction, then he’s free to sell his science fiction his way. This allows him to write for a traditional publishing house and get the mainstream exposure without sacrificing his creativity.

  5. True enough, Sis, but at the time, Stephen King wasn’t quite Stephen King. This was just like his third or fourth book. While his novels were selling like hotcakes, he wasn’t a hugoid name yet.

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