Thursday, July 19, 2012

How Long To Sing This Song?

Readers are astonished to learn that I began thinking about my novel Thalo Blue over a dozen years ago. It's true, though. I remember where I was when the seed of that book hit me.  I still have the text file with my jot notes about the story -- and I typed them out  that very night using a borrowed computer which didn't even have a word processor installed. Just Windows 95 and good ol' Notepad. I wouldn't actually start writing the book for many years after another major event instigated the writing process.



All of my books and stories thus far are tied together, either overtly or more subliminally. They share locations, characters, ideas, and even more you might discover as you read them. My newest novel is a Night Walk Men book called The Devil's Right Hand and it has its beginnings in the back of my mind at least nine years old. These stories are all part of a bigger world I seem to be creating and my point for mentioning this is that I have a vague map of where all of these different roads will go.

And I've had this road map tattooed on the back of my hand for at least a decade.

Sure, it changes some -- which is counterintuitive to the metaphor of a tattoo, I suppose. But with each new story that's written I get a brighter, clearer picture of the road map. And, more importantly, which way to go.

Once I finished writing my first novel I said to myself, "Well, that wasn't so hard!" But what I really meant was "Oh gawd, that was incredibly painful...but it didn't kill me."  Since finishing that first book didn't end with a bag over my head and a farewell note, I could realistically foresee writing a second or third. Or even more than that. In the beginning, and like the tattoo of the road map getting clearer and cleaner with each story pressed into the keyboard, I created an imaginary tally of tales.

I knew I had enough in me to write about a dozen long novels.


At least, I thought I did. Maybe I'm delusional.

How long will it take? Who knows? Will they be any good? Only time will tell. Will I live to see this achieved? Not sure. Short stories and other novellas/novelettes not included, I have this notion that my writing career (if you want to call it that) could entail about a dozen or more long novels. On The Gathering Storm was number one, Thalo Blue was number two. The forthcoming Devil's Right Hand will be number three. The Dovetail Cove series promises to be a set of novellas eventually collected at some point so I venture to call that monstrosity number four.

The novel I'm writing now will be number five in my internal numbering scheme.

For those interested, number five has seeds that go back about five years and will be (hooray!) a bit sunnier in disposition than some of my novels to date. There will be more on that book to share soon.

So, by my calculations, I have five of my dozen or so slots taken up. If the Night Walk Men don't see it worthy to take me in the night for some higher purpose, then I may have enough gas in the tank to write another seven over the next stretch of years. Sure, there might be more. And, it's totally feasible that I'll be chased by an angry mob and no more books will ever be written. But right now, the road map says this is where I'm at.

My question to the writers among you is this: Do you have a road map, not just of each story, but of how you will write sequels or new books in the next three years? Five years? Ten years? Does my tattoo analogy sound familiar to how you picture your writing journey?


23 comments:

  1. I have a road map for my current trilogy, and I have the framework for at least a dozen other novels. For now, I'm focusing on telling this story before deciding which idea to pick next. I like to plan ahead, but don't want to get too distracted by the allure of a shiny new plot or character.

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    1. I absolutely follow the same approach, Ryan. I write my current work as though it's the last thing I will ever say.

      And who knows? It might be.

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Ryan.

      j. //

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  2. Well, I have plenty of stories mapped out for the future (you've seen the first chapter of one of those on my blog). They aren't all interconnected, but I thought about linking them all somehow. I think it would be really neat to have some similar element in every story.

    Unlike Ryan, though, I do get distracted by new, shiny plots and characters. I have to be really careful to stay focused. When I can't take it, I write a chapter or two in the new book. :-)

    It's been a while since we've talked. Hope things are going well!

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    1. Yeah, Krystal, things are on the upswing for me now, I think. Thanks for asking.

      Don't get me wrong. I don't have actual books figured out. I don't have plot points or characters or arcs for a dozen books. I have more of a broad idea that I think I'll tell about twelve or so before I run out of things to say (and energy to say them).

      I don't intentionally tie books together (except for Night Walk Men and Dovetail Cove stuff). It just seems to evolve that way organically as I discover I'm not finished talking about some crazy aspect in the made-up universe I love so much.

      j. //

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  3. I'm simultaneously plotting at least two series at all times. I have no idea how many, if any, will be written. I really don't have any plan, I guess I'll just keep writing the stories as long as I keep getting ideas for them. When you love your characters and their world that much, I don't see how you could do otherwise.

    I don't think it's at all unusual to spend that much time on a first novel, I've heard several writers say they spent a good 10 years on their first novels.

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    1. Yes, D. D., I've heard of writers spending years and years on first novels too.

      I do wonder how many second, third, fourth and fifth books take as long to gestate though. Let's ask Jeffrey Eugenides!

      Thanks for your comment!

      j. //

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  4. Jason, I'm going to write until I die, and write each book as though it will be my last. No other plan. :)

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    1. Sounds like the perfect plan to me, Joel. Just perfect.

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  5. Welcome back handsome man in black. xox
    I've missed you!

    Roadmap? Nah. I'm flying by the seat of my panties, but I'm moving into 'full-length novel' territory so I probably need some kind of plan, but what that is ... not sure yet.
    Took me 2 years to put out 8 novella sized stories, and I have enough to put together a book of flash - is that good? Who knows? I can only write at my own pace and it does amaze me the amount of work you've written, so I think you're way ahead of the game.
    eden

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    1. Lovely Eden! I've missed you too!

      Just ask JD Salinger; quantity doesn't matter. Your first four novellas (and all your shorts and flash) have been incredibly well-received. Your next four promised to be every bit as successful. You're building YOUR written world (IMHO) and I couldn't be more pleased to learn you're not only continuing but planning a full-length novel. Yay!

      Thanks, as always, for stopping in to read and comment, Eden!

      j. //

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  6. A road map for future years? Nope. I spin directions by the minute! I'm so dizzy, I couldn't find my way down the street, much less map out my future.

    I write what pops into my head. Characters are always speaking to me. I tune into the strongest voice and listen. As Joel said, I will write until I die. That's not a choice. It's who I am.

    Jason, the only angry mob I foresee chasing you is the mob waiting for your next book or short story. And what's with the tease? A new book coming, but not even a mention of what it's about? And when do I get another Dovetail Cove story? And since I've had the pleasure of an early copy of Devil's Right Hand, which is, of course, brilliant, I'm already waiting for another Night Walk Men story. And...

    You see? Stop wasting time here and get back to writing! :)

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    1. Ha Ha! Darcia, you're such a joy! I see something in your work, though, a broadening of character and willingness to try new kinds of characters and genre influences. This may not be deliberate but I see a growth.

      I bet you WILL keep writing forever. And that's a good thing.

      As always, thank you for stopping in to comment, Darcia!

      j. //

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  7. Hey Jason! I'm finishing up second draft rewrites on my third "John Pilate" mystery/thriller. Looking back, I was never sure I was going to make a series, but a few loyal readers (and the characters in the books) had other ideas. I'm caught in a back and forth with myself about whether I should drop the series after "Pilate's Ghost" comes out in October and move on to something else, or stick with it to keep the momentum going for the series in hopes that it starts to sell a little better. I enjoy writing short stories, and have it in my head to publish a batch of those--perhaps with a loose theme. But I don't know. What I do know is that every day I see something in real life that I think would be a fun bit for a novel or story. I suppose as long as that happens I'll keep at it. That's my rambling answer... Good luck--you've such a bright future!

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    1. Love your approach, Alex! I see the same in my everyday world, too, I think. And the Pilate books have a growing core of die-hards. My feeling is that kind of love for what you are creating can only grow with time and energy. I know you'll keep creating what moves you, Alex. Thanks for popping in to share your approach!

      j. //

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  8. I've got no road map, Jason. There are no roads where I'm going and as long as I don't drive 88, it should be okay. I am working on a sequel to my first novel, beyond that, I have the ideas I've been jotting down as they occur and I'll pick one to play with next. It's good to hear from you again, by the way. :)

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    1. It's good to be heard from again, Larry. I'm glad to know that you're still writing and you plan to pin it (at least to 87) wherever your writing journey takes you.

      Thanks for stopping in the Reaches for a rest and a cold beverage on your travels, Mr. Enright!

      j. //

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  9. It was interesting to read about your writing journey, Jason, and to read some of the other writers' replies :) I have never planned any of my books. I've always just written my novels or stories never knowing whether I would ever finish them, or whether I would run out of inspiration before I got to the end. I am constantly in the position of worrying that I'll never be able to think of another story or idea... panic mode. But somehow I always do. I have no idea where my stories come from, only that I kind of tap into them when I'm ready to write.
    It was interesting to read how many of your stories have their roots years ago. Three of my novels: Coincidences, Second Chances, and A Time to Tell were written between 1997 and 1999, but not published until much later. The Dream was started about 10 years ago, but I stopped writing at Chapter 7, then found it in a drawer at home a couple of years ago and finished it. I have another novel that I started writing but didn't finish, sitting in a drawer at home. I don't have any plans except that I would love to keep producing novels and short stories as long as I live, but as I say, I have no idea whether I'll ever be able to come up with another story LOL

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    1. You're right, Maria -- it's interesting to read everyone's different responses here. I actually like the idea of writing (or creating anything) with a bit of fear. Is it any good? Will it be the last thing I ever produce? Will the ideas stop coming?

      Thanks so much, Maria. As always, your addition to any conversation creates more understanding of the topic.

      j. //

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  10. My plan is just to write until the stories stop coming. I have a theory that the little universes I write will know when their tales are done, and when that happens I'll hopefully have a new one or two to play with.

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    1. A very "one-step-at-a-time" approach, J. And probably one of the most sensible and realistic in terms of getting the work done. And "play" we shall in our little universes!

      Thanks, J!

      j. //

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  11. Jason, like you, I had New Alpha Rising in my mind since 1994. Since then, that book's been written and the story is still unfolding. I don't do tatts, but I definitely have that map drawn.

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    1. Sounds like you have quite the vision to complete with this saga, A.T. Thanks for sharing!

      j. //

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