Thoughts on changing up the writing process (it’s all useful!), new podcast with Melissa Olson, and fresh fiction
Hey Heroes –
This month’s biggest news is that I’ve got a complete, robust outline for THE BOOK THAT WILL NOT BE NAMED completed and off to my agent and editor. My agent is over the moon about it, and I admit I’m extremely proud of how it FINALLY came together. With that in place, the writing has been coming back at a much faster pace. I’m EXCITED every time I sit down at the keyboard instead of DREADING it.
Big win, there.
It’s easy to see the last five years or so as wasted time here in the word mines. Where was the PROGRESS? But when I read that outline for the sixth or seventh time, plugging relevant sections into the book chapter timeline, I realized that many of the core ideas I’d been playing with during those years are still here: the Killing Eve-style relationship, the Die Hard Heist that became a quest plot, the soldier-cuts-the-line scene, the “cutting off own arm for leverage” scene, the world collision, etc.
What took time was figuring out how all of that went together, and because I have a Hurley process, that meant writing tens of thousands of words that went nowhere. Certainly could have gotten there faster out the global and personal implosions stealing my headspace for years, but linking those ideas was WORK.
Ultimately, the final gel was me waking up one morning and writing a sentence that said, “the kids aren’t real.”
That clinched it.
You’ll have to read the book to truly understand why.
That was the idea that allowed me to push out a subplot I wasn’t interested and chunk in one that I was both more interested in (and made more thematic sense). I also had a much, much better “mortal wound” for my main character that ALSO made more thematic sense than the one I’d been ride-or-dying with since the beginning.
The curse of being a mid-career writer is there’s this feeling (for me, anyway) that you always have to one-up yourself. This led to me creating a lot of really complicated narratives that… didn’t need to be there. In the end, I pared it all down to its simplest components.
Like Stars are Legion, this is a book about two women who do monstrous things (one certainly more monstrous than the other), and how that relationship shaped them and the people (and worlds) around them. All the other stuff around them is PLOT; it exists to illuminate that emotional journey where they come to terms with what they’ve done.
So yes, there’s world collisions, and body horror, and civil war, and genocide, and good old Hurley soldiering, but ultimatley that all lives around this much smaller story of two women who were terrible to and for each other. There’s strength in simplifying, in understanding what the story is ABOUT.
I reread the outline the other night and CRIED AT THE END ?. I love money (I need to eat), and lordy have I needed to money for turning in this book a LOT over the last few years, but a friend paraphrased Tim Powers once as saying, “A late book is only late once. A bad book is bad forever.”
And while this book will have been late many times, it’s going to be a book I am very, very proud of.
We are all going to die (some of us sooner than others), and ultimately very little of what we do with our lives matters or lasts. But books do live on for a little while after we’re gone (unlike the PPTs we edit at the day jobs, yanno?), and it’s important to me that I create work that I’m proud of in the moment.
On the latest episode of GET TO WORK HURLEY, Melissa Olson joins the show to talk about how she balanced parenting and writing (her book advances went to child care! THE COLD EQUATIONS, FRIENDS), why and how she pivoted from books to comics (and is adding books back into the mix again) and her story in the fifth issue of Project: Cryptid from Ahoy Comics, as well as her experience writing for Amazon’s science fiction and fantasy imprint 47 North, and much more.
This month, we have a prose poem about the death of the old year and the old worlds – many worlds – and what connects them all together. If you’re a Patreon supporter, you can download it as a PDF, Mobi, or Epub file.
Read an excerpt:
“The old year is dying.
In the blue bayous of Bhoreh,
In the marshlands of Salaxis,
Along the sandy lakeshore of Philides,
Among the lovers of Abadoon,
In the craggy heights of Eraxis.
And finally, some photos from around the homestead:
Spring is coming! I’ve logged 295 seed varieties in my new seed tracking spreadsheet, and needless to say: shit’s about to get REAL.
As ever, be kind to each other, for each of us is fighting some kind of battle.