The Unexpected Changes That Come From Finally Selling A Novel (Part 1 in a Series)

When, after twenty-five years of plugging away, I finally sold my first novel, I thought the changes would be more personal than professional.  After all, how different can it be, moving from a short story writer to a novelist?

As it turns out, quite a bit.

Short stories don’t need blurbs.  Short stories don’t have covers to discuss.  Short stories are tiny events, and do not require the author to see what promotions he can whip up amongst his friends. If my short story is disappointing, that’s a bad review in Locus and maybe a slight black mark on the editor’s legacy, but my tale is surrounded by four other stories and they can hold up the slack.

My impending novel, on the other hand, drops on its own.  I am solely responsible for it.  And so even though I’m not a self-publisher and Angry Robot is handling most of the hard work in terms of editing/finding a good cover/selling it to B&N/Amazon/Powells/whoever , I’m still thinking up ways to get the word out because this is my baby.  I’ve never really had to think this much about “Say, how do I inform people about this thing?  How do I get people to express their enthusiasm for it where other people can see it?” because until now, a blog post was sufficient.  This involves actual marketing, and though I could lie back and just let everyone else do the work, I think y’all know that’s not my style.

But the biggest change?  Short stories are short, and deadline-free.

I mean, they do have deadlines, if you write for anthologies (I can’t, as my stories take upwards of a year to gestate), and certainly edits are due after acceptance.  But generally, it’s “write a story on any topic, send it off whenever.”  And if they like it, they like it!  And if they don’t, well, whatevs.

So I’m used to wandering free as a cloud, letting my muse flit from tale to tale – and since stories generally take me about two to three weeks to finish a draft, my schedule’s been my own.

However.  The edits for Flex (please buy it) drop sometime in mid-May.  That’s about two weeks from now.  And I’m working on two novels – the sequel to Flex, which exists mostly inside my head at this point, and the story of a space-bound gourmet restaurant, which I have three chapters written for and want to continue.

Normally, I’d just say, “All right, let’s do this!” and commit the next three months to powering out a first draft.  But I can’t start the process, because for me, writing a novel is like uncorking a soda – you need to finish it quickly, before all the fizz leaks out.  And I know from years of experience managing my creative muse that if I pour all my energy into New Book, then get yanked rudely out of New Book Headspace to rewrite portions of Flex, by the time I return from Old Novel Land, poor little New Novel will be deflated and decarbonated.

So I’m in a holding pattern, with two novels I really want to sink my teeth into, and not quite able to let slip the dogs of war because I have Deadline barring my way.  And there was a recent Writing Excuses talking about this same problem, where once they became novelists they had to deal with the reality of Edits potentially bursting through the enthusiasm of this new project like some sort of sadistic Kool-Aid Man.

Which is weird.  If I’m successful at this, then I’m going to have to find a way to restructure my creativity so that I don’t need an uninterrupted three months to finish a novel.  But for now, I’m new enough at writing novels that people want to publish that I’m not going to futz with the formula that got me here.

So I’ve got all the reason in the world to write: I’m on contract for a sequel, manuscript due next summer.  I’ve got a really cool spacebound restaurant based in part on the Velvet Tango Room.  And I’m sitting here walking in small circles, working on tiny projects that don’t require ambition, because soon Amanda will plop her revision requests for Flex on my desk and I must be ready.

So I’m twiddling. Twiddling as hard as I can.

7 Comments

  1. Michael R. Underwood
    May 5, 2014

    I’m right there with you on waiting for edits – my letter for The Younger Gods is due anytime, while I’m plowing ahead at an insane-for-me production rate on a new project. I am excited for edits, and know that they need to be done, done well, and done quickly, but they’re all but guaranteed to completely interrupt my rhythm for this current project.

    Such is the writer life. 🙂

  2. JD Moyer
    May 5, 2014

    Congratulations! Well-deserved success (and good problems to have … I hope to have them myself someday).

  3. nikki @bookpunks
    May 6, 2014

    That sounds rather confusing and difficult.

    And as someone who writes about books and who has really really loved reading your blog since discovering it all too recently, I can say: hey, I’d love to do a review of it when the time comes and add to that buzz you want to build. Might have to hook me up though, as Angry Robots works through NetGalley and NetGalley seems to hate me.

    Either way, best of luck to you figuring that knot of a creative dilemma out.

    • TheFerrett
      May 6, 2014

      Well, if you want, I can ship you a copy of the unedited document. Or I’ll put you on the list to personally send the e-file of your choice when edits are done. Just let me know, and thank you!

      (And yeah, it’s a little confusing. I’ll work through.)

  4. John Wiswell
    May 6, 2014

    I haven’t listened to that Writing Excuses yet, but “Edits potentially bursting through the enthusiasm of this new project like some sort of sadistic Kool-Aid Man” is one of the finest lines on editing I’ve read. Is that yours, or from the podcast?

    I’m still so excited for you working with AR. A great publisher. Looking forward to whatever you cook up promoting it. While my means are modest, please let me know if I can help.

    • TheFerrett
      May 7, 2014

      Oh, I made that up. I’m glad you like it!

      I’ll keep you on the slate, sir! Thanks for the offer! (I have no idea what I’m doing)

  5. Michael Johnston
    May 15, 2014

    Huh. Unless you’re a different “The Ferret,” I used to read you on LJ. Like John Wiswell up there, I’m a grad of VP17. Your book is now preordered, because the blurb sounds pretty cool, and I’m a huge proponent of Brust’s Cool Stuff Theory of Literature.

    Also, in case you’re unfamiliar with it (which seems unlikely, but weirder things have happened), look into doing a post on John Scalzi’s “Big Idea” series. http://whatever.scalzi.com/2013/09/07/big-idea-guidelines/

    Anyway, glad VP fellow students lead me to find you, whether you’re the same guy or not.

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