Simmering on the back burner is something I’ve been working on for over a year. It’s relatively complete. It’s got a beginning, a middle, and (in my opinion) a pretty cracking end. I’ve gotten people to look it over and agree it’s at least decent. And yet it sits there. It simmers. It waits.
Because it isn’t ready yet.
Cold Streets is going to be my second self-published novella. And as veteran self-publisher Chuck Wendig will tell you, there’s nothing second tier or ‘minor leagues’ about it. While you don’t have to go through the rigors and the wait and the hoops of the traditional publishing model, part of the trade-off is that the onus of the actual publication process is on you, the writer. You have to be your own PR. You have to be your own editor. And you have to be your own critic.
Despite the good words from my test readers, regardless of what polish and improvements I plan on making, the fact of the matter is, I am the sole arbiter of quality when it comes to what I write. And if something I’ve written isn’t good enough, it won’t see the light of day. That’s why I shut down Godslayer, and it’s why Cold Streets continues to simmer. I want to publish it, sure – it’s decent enough to warrant that – but I don’t feel it’s quite good enough yet.
They say you only get one chance to make a first impression. With Cold Iron, I held back on lining up the cover and arranging publication until I felt it was ready. And even as I fired it off, I felt there were things I could change about it. But it was prepared, and worked over, and good enough for other eyes. It may not be perfect – most of my work may never be perfect – but it worked well enough to earn some decent sales and good reviews. Cold Streets needs to be better. It will be, but it isn’t yet.
That’s the price we pay for publishing ourselves.
Well, that, and paying for talented folks to help us with our covers and whatnot.
It isn’t easy for a writer to realize, completely and utterly, that an idea of theirs isn’t going to work.
This is especially the case if it’s an idea they’ve had for years. You can make a good story out of just about anything, it’s true. But if too many characters are in need of depth or development and proceeding from flawed or over-used premises to begin with, getting a fresh start can only take you so far. The more times you begin to start from scratch, only to be tripped up by questions and concerns and thoughts of “wait, this doesn’t actually make sense,” the more the truth begins to dawn.
And the truth is, I don’t think I can save the story I was thinking of calling Godslayer.
Maybe if I had the skill and time to program it into a computer game of some kind, it could turn out differently. The fact of the matter is, while literature is overflowing with flawed but good-natured protagonists who lean more towards being scholars or ‘nerds’, the lion’s share of gaming’s leads are burlier, surlier, and more boring. Godslayer could work as an adventure game, a point-and-click exercise from days of old revitalized by the likes of TellTale Games, but as it stands, the story is pretty much dead in the water as far as I can tell.
Thankfully, I’m not starved for ideas. I’m moving forward with other projects. This year is going to be a busy one, and the plans I have for fiction are no exception. It’s a shame that an idea I’ve had for years is ultimately going nowhere, but I’d rather be honest with myself and my readers about the quality of what I’m doing than try to keep polishing the same turd. If something old is going to stink up the place, the best plan is to ditch it and try something new.
I’m crossing my fingers and knocking on wood (ow) in the hope that the worst of 2013 is behind me, and that the new year will not open with bad news. Cold Streets is still getting tested, and I’ve got a decent idea of what to shore up, what to cut, and what to expand. I’ll wait until everybody’s chipped in, though, before I get started on that.
In the meantime, I’ve been getting more ideas about Godslayer. Specifically, how it should begin. My recent foray back into TV-watching has had me taking in some cracking good pilots, and they all have a few things in common. They hit the ground running with their stories, they get the audience invested in their characters and worlds pretty quickly, and they don’t over-complicate the opening of a long narrative. I think a lot of genre novels can have trouble doing this, and I would rather not be counted among them. Especially if I want to gear Godslayer towards a younger audience.
Let’s see, what else? Got some local projects cooking. Keeping up with Flash Fiction. Still not sure if Fantasy Flight would be interested in a novel set in the Twilight Imperium universe.
We had our first snowfall here this past week. Temperatures have dropped and winds have picked up. Clearly, winter is on a little bit of a warpath this year. I’ve been trying to muster up similar motivation and dive further into Godslayer.
It’s something of an experiment, I realized, as I looked over my outline and carved out some character points this week. A lot of fantasy novels out there are perfectly happy to maintain the status quo of the genre and stay well within previously defined boundaries. I look back at old movies I grew up with, like Krull and David Lynch’s Dune, and I see those lines smearing, if not disappearing. Why don’t more modern tales do that?
It’s been said that writers should write the stories they want to read. And I want to read more stories where it becomes hard to tell if it’s one genre or another. I’m not talking about radical shifts in tone, or anything; mostly, I want to emphasize character and theme more than ticking off the boxes folks have been ticking off since Tolkien’s days.
In other news, Cold Streets has test readers who are providing me with excellent feedback. I think I can do everything I need to do in one more pass of rewriting/editing, and then it’s on to getting the cover art and other particulars nailed down. Sure, I may be a bit behind in my original schedule, but I feel like the end result will be worth the wait. That’s the vibe I get from my test readers, as well.
I hope you all have an excellent weekend. Try to stay warm, won’t you?
I’ll keep this short and somewhat to the point – the draft of Cold Streets is ready for test readers!
As I work on Godslayer, outlining and possibly doing a world/character bible, I’ll be interested to hear what people have to say about my next novella. I want to hit as broad an audience as possible. I have a few people interested already, but if you would like to read the manuscript over and have a hand in changing it before I go into the production cycle, please let me know.