Starting a New Project (or Getting Out of the Gutter)
Well, no one ever said this was going to be easy. Let’s commiserate for a moment, fellow writers. Let’s talk about the pain and agony that is starting a new project. Buckle up: it’s going to be a long one. Let me start at the beginning(ish)…
SEWN FROM SEEDS (2010 – 2015)
SEWN FROM SEEDS was many things to me. It was set in a fictionalized version of my hometown and my way of turning the mundane into something fantastic. Tujunga is more or less surrounded by the Angeles National Forest, and in 1978 the Verdugo Hills Pioneer Cemetery flooded, sending corpses down into the town. These were the backbones of my story: what really lurked in the woods; what was really responsible for the flood?
SEWN FROM SEEDS was about reconciling and accepting an awkward teenage experience, especially when it came to girls. I wasn’t popular, nor was I unpopular. I was somewhere right in the middle: bookish, athletic, and absolutely clueless when it came to asking girls out (pro tip: don’t tell a girl or guy you like them as more than a friend over a social media IM).
SEWN FROM SEEDS was about discovering how much Edgar Allan Poe influenced my writing.
SEWN FROM SEEDS was about me dealing with grief, betrayal, and loss early in college. One of my best friends passed away January 1st, 2011 at a New Year’s party we were attending and it absolutely ruined me. At the tail end of the month I got involved in a relationship that had me staring into the abyss. It lasted five miserable months; I was cheated on twice and then she tried to kill herself. SEWN FROM SEEDS was my escape during this time. After, my catharsis.
SEWN FROM SEEDS was the means to something bigger. It’s a project yet complete, but it allowed me to conceptualize what would become my first foray into epic fantasy: SHADOW TWINS (formerly THE FORGER).
SHADOW TWINS (2015 – present)
I have the habit of visualizing many of my stories existing in one giant universe. It’s a blessing and a curse as a young writer, especially because I lack the ability to finish projects—to a certain extent. Shadow Twins was originally supposed to be a prequel to the entire SEWN FROM SEEDS trilogy. If I had kept to that plan, it would have looked something like this:
- SHADOW TWINS
- SEWN FROM SEEDS: Disinterred
- SEWN FROM SEEDS: Memories
- SEWN FROM SEEDS: Catharsis
Somewhere in the middle of 2016 I began to envision the antagonist of each story as one in the same, even though SHADOW TWINS existed in an alternate world. CATHARSIS would have been a portal fantasy, bringing both worlds together for an epic climax to the entire story. I tried but failed. The biggest reason for my scrapping the plan was that I had no idea where I was going when I began to rewrites MEMORIES. Rather, I did and then I got lost and decided to just finish SHADOW TWINS.
SHADOW TWINS, after many revisions (and a near complete rewrite) began an amalgamation of four books; it closely resembles the story I had set out to write from the start, just more concise. It sits as a standalone with sequel potential, the first of its kind that I’ve ever written. But the problem is…
I DON’T KNOW WHAT TO FOLLOW UP WITH (Present)
I’ve gotten to the point where I’m more or less “satisfied” with SHADOW TWINS. It’s on submission to agents and a pretty awesome small press. I could tweak it for years and it still wouldn’t be perfect, which is why I’ve decided to let it sit. Otherwise I’d probably go mad (even more so than I already am). But that brings me (us?) to the subject of this post: what do I (we?) write next?
I, like many of my fellow writers, suffer from TMIS (Too Many Ideas Syndrome). I have plenty of half-formed ideas, several novels that I’ve written several thousand words of, and absolutely no clue where I should place my focus. My TMIS is compounded by the fact that I don’t feel particularly invested in any of these ideas, for various reasons, including:
- Lack of excitement
- No emotional intrigue
- No interest in the characters or world
- Wanting to experience something new
I’ve realized since finishing SHADOW TWINS that it could never have been a duology or trilogy. While I want to tell other stories with these characters eventually, I currently find myself…bored with them. And that is a pretty clear sign I need to try something new.
Tell me friends: how do you tackle this problem? How have you done so in the past, how will you in the future? How do you keep yourself interested in characters long enough to write a series?