Saturday, December 23, 2017
Writing by the seat of my pants
I think I'm developing in new ways as a writer. Part of that, I suspect, is that I'm getting fitter and stronger, as a result of the strength training that Miss D. and I are doing together. My pain level (from my disabling injury back in 2004) has not changed, but I suspect I'm getting mentally tougher as well as physically, and thus able to tolerate it better.
A few weeks ago, I was working on my (carefully plotted out) manuscript for the sixth book in my Maxwell Saga. It wasn't going very well, and I was getting frustrated; so I decided to try something that had worked for me once before, with the first volume of the Laredo War trilogy. I sat down on Monday, November 27th, and began writing in "stream-of-consciousness" mode; what's known in the trade as a "pantser" approach, as opposed to planning or plotting. I had no specific plot or storyline in mind, except that I wanted to write about the founding of a space security company and its adventures.
Three weeks later, on Sunday, December 17th, I finished a 98,500-word manuscript. It's already with alpha readers, who have picked up errors and problems here and there (only to be expected, with the very first draft), but generally seem to like it. I posted a teaser excerpt on this blog a few days ago.
However, Miss D. didn't let matters lie there. She pointed out that in some genres, authors write a series - a trilogy, or whatever - and publish it in rapid succession, one book every 30 days or so. This builds up momentum for the series, as people see new volumes come out before they can forget about the previous one. It can apparently boost sales quite significantly. She challenged me to do the same with this new series. Since I'd already written an average of 4,700 words every day for 21 days, without a plot or outline in sight, why not carry on in that vein, complete the trilogy, then publish all three books in rapid succession?
This was (and is) a scary thought. In the past, I've usually worked to an outline, in which there's a place for everything and everything's in its place. The prospect of having to produce a couple of hundred thousand more words in about six or seven weeks, with nothing to help me except my imagination, is daunting! On the other hand, of course, I don't have to produce that many words all at once. All I have to do is sit down every morning and start writing, trusting to my creative instincts to let the words come. (I suppose it's like the old African proverb: "How do you eat an elephant? Mouthful by mouthful!") I have no idea whatsoever where the storyline is going, or what's going to happen next - but that doesn't matter. My job is to write, and leave the inspiration up to my muse (whoever and wherever he, she or it may be).
So, that's what I'm trying to do. Starting on Monday this week, I've already written over 28,000 words, and the second volume of the trilogy is chugging right along. If I can keep up this pace, I can complete all three volumes by mid-February, and then work on polishing and improving them together, with the help of alpha and beta readers, for publication in spring and summer. I'm going to go for it, and see what happens. What have I got to lose?
Want another teaser? Here's an early draft of the cover. It's not final, and there will be changes; but even so, I like what the designer has done so far. Take a bow, Steve B.!