See, the urge to edit absolutely everything is well-nigh inescapable. I originally intended to title this post something like “Fleeing in progress!” But I hate the use of the word “fleeing” there. After all, why not say “flight”? But then I wondered about alternative meanings. Plus, maybe “fleeing” is more clearly active, and thus theoretically better in some possibly relevant sense? But I still didn’t like the title. So I avoided the issue with a simple rephrasing. Sound good? Okay, let’s move on. Probably this bit will make sense in a bit (which is awkward phrasing but for some reason I like it anyway), but I’m not promising that.
Would I like to come back and edit this post again tomorrow? Or next week? No, I would not. I would rather poke a needle through my tongue. This may be important.
I have this collection of novels and stories I’ve started in the last few months. Some of the stories are sort of completed, with editing to be done. None of the novels have gotten far. Maximum word-count is about 10,000. Which should just be a few days’ work, if I were on a roll. Which I ain’t.
I understand this is typical of writers. Or at least most writers. But in my life to date, an unfinished project has been an extreme rarity. Or at least more than one uncompleted project, anyway, because I’m generally working on something.
It’s pretty weird…so I decided to go back and figure out what the first unfinished project was, and see if that led to any sort of insight.
Well, maybe it did? My last completed novel was Bleed on the Sky, which was written quickly and quickly followed by a completed nonfiction book on online security and privacy. So what happened after that? Some starts on novels. An abortive story-a-day plan (I really wanted that one to work). More work on trying to finish stories, and various returns to novel projects I would call “in progress” except that there has been next to no progress. Hmm. What’s missing?
I think I might know. If we go back just a little bit further, the book before Bleed on the Sky was The Secret. That one got stalled partway through, but I picked it up and completed it fairly quickly. Then it took a really long time to convince myself it was worth editing and publishing the thing. But right after I did, I completed two more full-length books in short order.
Then what happened? Well…The Secret sold much, much, much better than I’d expected it to. The online privacy book did almost as well. What didn’t sell? Bleed on the Sky. I mean, it didn’t sell at all. Maybe 50 copies. Only one review on Amazon. Occasionally someone still buys that book, on one site or another, but I’m including those in my estimate of 50 sales. (The cover is truly awful, by the way, and I’ve always known that. I told myself it didn’t matter much, because after all there were all those readers of the first book! And after all I was immediately busy with something else. Maybe I was even right that it didn’t matter? But either way, the lousy cover can’t have helped the book.)
I’d thought that book was a no-brainer, since so many people had read Shiver on the Sky and asked for a sequel–and Shiver was still being read by many people, since it was free. Yeah, not so much with the sales there.
What’s missing here? Maybe it’s simple. I had originally written Shiver on the Sky to be a standalone novel. But when I started writing Bleed on the Sky, that was intended to be book two of a trilogy. However…why write the third book if people aren’t reading the second book? Right? So I thought I should move along to brand-new material.
You know what, though? I know nothing about book marketing (not that I haven’t read everything I could find on the subject–I’m just not convinced the people writing the books and articles actually know more than I do…they seem to me to be mostly just saying things that may or may not be true in any given moment or context), so I should probably never ever ever make decisions based on my ideas of what will or won’t sell. I do know that it bothered me to stop writing after book two of a trilogy. I also know that if I’d been able to keep my momentum up by writing the third book, it would’ve been finished long ago. Maybe the momentum would’ve continued? Maybe there would be another book or two by now? Or, you know, maybe not.
Also maybe nobody buys a second book in a trilogy without a third being available, especially if there was a three-year wait between the first two. Especially with a crappy cover. I have no freaking idea what does or doesn’t drive book sales (other than new books), and it’s silly for me to pretend otherwise.
So the hell with it. I’m reading those books I wrote about Owen Tremaine and his screwy friends again today, which may or may not be a good idea but it’s what I’m doing, and I will write something–even if it’s only a single sentence, and even if it’s only a sentence I don’t like–on the third book. Today. I’m also determined to edit as I go, since I seem to have developed a severe allergy to revisiting work that feels complete in my head.
Book three will be titled Flee from the Sky. I know a few things about it already. Not too many, which is the way I like it. My intent is to write something every day. A single word will suffice, as far as I’m concerned. But I suspect it’ll turn into much more than that. Still: one word satisfies this goal. Maybe even some punctuation would do. Just…something.
Maybe this book will sell a million copies when it’s done. Maybe only five. I’ve decided I don’t really care. It’s just the next book I intended to write once upon a time, and I was excited about it, and now I’m going to do it.
As for what happens next after I finish it, it beats me. Which is another thing I like. I see no downside to this plan. If it works, maybe I can just do whatever I most want to do with my writing afterward, too. Since trying to write what I think will sell clearly doesn’t work for me.
Regardless? Have fun out there!