Another blog post brought over from one of my other Blogs– it has been edited from the original to reflect my current thoughts. If you haven’t seen Chuck Wendig’s terribleminds.com site, check it out- he’s irreverent, witty, and a snappy wit. Oh, and he uses bad language, so be prepared.
Chuck’s terribleminds.com blog issued a 1000 word challenge: “Why do you write?”
When I read the Jul 24 2015 Terribleminds newsletter, my haughty, immediate answer was, “I write for myself, of course.” Then, I dismounted my high horse and had second thoughts. Somewhere around book four, the Team Red series ceased to be about me, and became all about not disappointing the fans of the series. Granted, I’m no million dollar seller (Book 1, Blind Seduction, which is free, has been uploaded about 25000 times. Respectable for an Indie writer, but nothing spectacular.) But, my fans are awesome— and vocal—sending emails, leaving encouraging chat messages, and commenting on Facebook posts. The messages are usually the same: when is the next book coming out?
My problem is self-inflicted. As a new writer, and a fairly new indie (I started 3/2013), I tried to keep up with my competition who put out three or four books a year. I decided three at 75k words each was do-able for me, and I scheduled dates with my editor. By the time book four rolled around, I was dreading the next book—in fact, I was stressed and ill, so the book 5 turned into a novella so I could meet my self-imposed deadlines.
There you have it folks—the point where I’d ceased writing for me, and became all about the edit deadlines. By the end of book six, the last scheduled in the series, I was D.O.N.E.
I don’t read Paranormal Romance as a rule, so I have no idea why the Team Red characters graced me with their story. I loved writing about Teresa, Red (especially Red), Bas, David… well, all the players actually. I feel lucky to have created a cast of likeable people who tell a wonderful tale. But, other stories started tumbling around in my brainbox. I was ready to try something new.
Enter Posse. A story revolving around eight main characters; multiple PoVs (point of view) was a great challenge and I was ready. I wanted to mix historical events into an Urban Fantasy. I wanted to try my hand at world building, and drawing characters with more background, layers, and complexity. I scheduled my Urban Fantasy epic tale with my Editor (who was booked out a year in advance—yeah, she’s that awesome) and guesstimated 100-120k pages for the book. I was only a month into planning when I realized I had a trilogy on my hands. Posse kept expanding and the characters were telling me more and more of their background stories. I’d created a monster, and decided almost immediately to tell the complete story. Now, I had a few more books to schedule. Posse became Posse: Legends. And two more evolved, Posse: The Dragon Gods, and Posse: The Fall of Atlantis.
Fans were mildly encouraging about the new trilogy, but most of my email was asking for another Team Red book—there are a lot of requests for book seven mixed in with book reviews and Facebook posts. I’d already decided to do an offshoot series of the Mustangs, starting with fan favorite, Frost, but the book seven requests kept rolling in. Luckily, I’d pre-scheduled a couple of the Wild Horse books with the editor-goddess, so I could appease the masses. Possibly.
I was cursed. I’d created a set of enduring characters, and the fans didn’t want to let them go. To defer to their wishes, I conceded to add novellas to the offshoot series, tentatively called the Wild Horse series. Fans could keep up with the Team Red characters, but I’d be free to write other things. Or could I?
The more Posse came alive on paper (metaphorically speaking, of course), the more it grew. My 85-90k guesstimate had the growth properties of bacteria. It seemed the more I wrote, the more background information each character revealed. When I had the plot clear and I was steering in one direction, a character would throw in a new twist (which was really awesome, as the eight threads of the story were making more and more sense and the complexity was satisfying).
Sigh. I’ve discovered, with more complexity, comes greater responsibility to world build. My 85k target wanted to inch up to the 100k region again. I ruthlessly held it back, ever conscious of the self-imposed edit deadlines and pre-arranged word counts. I finally had to snap off the first 25k words of Legends into a novella- Posse: The Duoviri which tells Lexa and Etienne’s backstory and why the Duoviri was created.
But, I wasn’t writing for me anymore. I was not writing the story I wanted to tell. I was strangling the life and energy from a story which has been speaking to me for over a year—all to get it into the hands of fans who are asking for book seven of a different series.
Two hugely significant and life changing things happened this last week. My editor announced her retirement. I’m losing my collaborator—and that’s truly how I feel about her. And Chuck Wendig asked me “Why do you write?”
A couple days ago, I cancelled the Posse series with my editor. I’ve paid for book covers, an online book tour, and my publicity person… but I decided that telling the story I want to tell, is more important than publishing three books per year. I’ll continue to write, but I don’t know if I’ll publish it. Can’t say I care at this point. I need to do Posse right, which means no compromise on word count or deadlines.
Now, I can answer Chuck’s question the way I did last year—I write for the love of writing. I write because the characters in my head are real and have a story they need me to but on paper.
I write because I can’t not write.
Note: As an update, after I lost some writing time to provide hospice care to my mom, who passed away 11/2016, I picked up the loose threads of Legends and now have a release date: Oct 26 2017. To quote Sinatra, I did it my way. My Team Red readers may not feel the connection to this series they feel to Red and the Team Red crew, but this series makes my heart happy).