Friday, March 14, 2014

A Tale Of Two Novels

Doc-tor! I have a novel lodged in my head!
My brain hurts!
I've heard it said that everyone has a novel inside them. Me, I have two. Well, actually, about six. No, wait, a dozen. But let's get back to those two. It wasn't always that way. First there was one, then partway through writing it, my brain said "Here's a different story,  pretty much complete from start to finish! Isn't that exciting? Start writing it now, while it's fresh in your head!". So I put the first one on ice, and starting frantically writing the second one.

Both are science fiction. One is set in the present day, and deals with time travel. The other is set in the not too distant future, and deals with an officer in the United States armed forces and the adventures she has. The word counts for them stand at 33,760 and 81,780 respectively.

I am not going to go into specifics about them. I don't want to give anything away.

I think they are both good science fiction stories, and though they both deal with subjects that have been done to death, the characters and their situations are what I feel set them apart and make for compelling stories.

I know exactly how each is to unfold, including the endings, which for me is usually the toughest bit. Two complete stories.

Each has a few minor things that need addressing in order to make sure that each story adheres to its respective internal logic, but this is small stuff.

Funny, both novels are one-word titles that begin with the letter "A". That just occurred to me.

And yet, I fear completing them. Because if I complete them, I will be obliged to try to get them published. There lies the problem. What if they're just not good enough? What if, in fact, they're trite and/or stupid?

See, while they're being written, they are potentially awesome stories that will see the light of day as published novels. They haven't been rejected yet, so that hope that they will be published is always there. But if they are submitted and found to be lacking, that hope, that potential, is gone.
How about spiders in high places?

And that scares me. More than spiders or heights.

I'm trying to talk my way out of this, using my powers of super-rationalization to get over it. Yet whenever I come up with a good rationale, I can immediately shoot it down in the next instant.

For instance, I keep reminding myself that people like my writing. Yeah, but that stuff is small things like blog posts, humorous articles, my gaming campaign, and the short short stories I sometimes do about our game. Novels are bigger in scope, bigger in audience.It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that I've had two novels and a short story published. Yeah, but those were for the niche market of role-playing games, where the bar is set a littlle lower. Okay, much lower. These two novels in different states of completion are aimed at the mainstream. It's a whole different animal.

I remind myself that people have told me that I write realistic dialogue, come up with interesting personalities, and have an easy to read, conversational writing style. And it's at that point that I tell myself to shut the Hell up.

This little thing has two novels in it.
Not to worry; it's bigger on the inside!
Don't get me wrong; I'm not on a compliment fishing expedition here. Nor am I looking for a pep talk. Frankly, I'm not quite sure what it is I'm looking for here. Maybe  I just have the need to vent and throw this issue, this fear, call it what you will, out there. Who needs counseling, I have a blog!

I know what my problem is: I fear rejection, and you can't reject something that hasn't been submitted. And yet, I sit here saying "But these are good stories! There's adventure, and humor, and cool characters!" At least I believe that's the case. I don't know. I look at the words, after going over them time and again, editing, polishing, and the stories seem rather dull, the characters hokey. Even the nifty parts that, at the time I wrote them, I was rubbing my hands together and going "Mwahahah! Yesss!", I now go "Eh. Whatever."

But that's when logic  kicks in and says "It's because you're seeing the same words time and time again; you've grown jaded to them. Someone who reads them for the first time will enjoy them!" Stupid logic! Shut up and get me a beer!

And yet, every time I sit back and go "Fine. I just won't finish them. Forget it. It was a stupid idea anyway", my brain keeps coming up with newer and better scenes, cooler dialogue, to put into the stories. Part of me simply refuses to put the ideas down; Hell, I even have sequels already outlined for both novels!!

"You can do eet!"
So that's where I stand, at war with myself, two opposing forces of equal strength. On one side is my innate sense of competitiveness, my love of weaving a good yarn, my sense of optimism, and two stories that when you get right down to it, are pretty cool. On the other side, some leftover issues from my childhood that insist that everything I ever do is utter crap, my insecurities, and a fear of the death of hope.
" Hell you can!"

Of course, I wonder if my subconscious is engaged in some trickery by compelling me to post this. I've learned from past experience that it can be a tricky bastard.

In closing, although I don't usually get my wisdom from movies, there's a line from Shaun of the Dead that gives me pause. It just may be one of the things that helps motivate me. It's something that Shaun's girlfriend, Liz, says near the beginning of the movie, when she's railing about their relationship going nowhere.

"If I don't do something, I'm going to end up going into that pub every night for the rest of life like the rest of those sad old f*ckers, drinking myself to death and wondering what the Hell happened."

Strong words, and though not an exact fit (I don't go to bars all that often, and despite many jokes and references about beer, it would be stretch to even consider me a moderate drinker), it's the spirit of the quote that strikes me, the underlying message. Wise words from a zombie romantic comedy!


  1. I feel you. There is a lot I haven't bothered to write because I don't know that it will go anywhere. What if I pour work and heart and time into something that ultimately three people enjoy? I've done that, and there are 600 CDs in my basement attesting to it. Creating is hard; marketing, even to agents or editors, is way harder.

  2. Self-publish via Amazon's Kindle services. Hugh Howey is my shining example of this.