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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)

CEM47343899_128767430005SEWN 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)

imagesI’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.

But what?

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?

1 Comment »

  1. Thanks for sharing this!

    I must say–I’m fascinated by your various inspirations for Sewn from Seeds, especially that stuff about your hometown.

    In many ways I can relate to your feelings here, not because I became less invested in my MCs/story from my first novel, but because I’ve found it very hard to move on. My mind and heart are still very much with those characters and that world, and it remains (to my mind), a superior MS to the one I’m currently querying (and which I entered in Pitchwars). I couldn’t let it go, despite the fact that it’s way too long for a debut, and contrary to what we’re told to do, I’m working on the sequel (even if it’s only for my own enjoyment and sense of satisfaction).

    Last year, when I started work on Skaldsdottir’s Saga, I had an idea I was keen on, and characters I liked in an abstract kind of way, but I somehow felt less attached. And, if I’m honest, I cultivated that detachment, because I knew it had to be a MS I was willing to tear to absolute pieces if I even wanted a shot at getting an agent/breaking into the business as a debut author. It was mostly my daily writing goals that pushed me through, along with the fact that my partner was completing a novel alongside me.

    Right now I have several ideas I’m contemplating turning into my next MS (probably a standalone), but I’m focusing on editing for the most part right now, as my upcoming term will likely be too busy for writing. Sadly, a lot of my passion is turning into a cynical (but potentially useful) sense of practicality: standalone fantasies are more acceptable right now for debut authors, and lower wordcounts allow one to get noticed. :/ Mentally and emotionally I buck against this knowledge. I want to write something I would read, that I would love, and that I could champion, but the novel of my heart isn’t necessarily the novel that will get my foot in the door. Getting my foot in the door -might- mean I -can- write the novel of my heart (or see it published in some form, if it’s already been written).

    For me, inspiration is haphazard and often unplanned (a cliche that we’re told to ignore, I know), so I don’t know that I have any useful advice. I do think if you keep working at your WIP you may eventually become more invested than you thought you could be at first, so it’s often worthwhile to stick with it. That said, at the point where you’re churning out novels just for the productivity alone, I think you’ve lost something (I have a friend who does this, and who seems to be happy doing it, but their goals have become more about assembly-line production than art, and for me that would be a sign I’d taken a wrong path).

    Like

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