So, during the long, boring, seemingly interminable time that readers have my manuscript and I have to wait for them to return it with comments – hint, hint, readers – I’ve started pulling out old stuff I’ve written. I need a break, I think, from these characters, from this universe, from their problems, because I’ve been up to my ears with all that stuff since early November. I need new people, new genres, new everything.
So far, from what I see, a lot of it can at least be junked for parts. And that’s important, I think – I am surely not above taking nicely written passages from unsalvageable pieces and retooling them so they fit into my current narrative. I think it makes for good mini-revision exercises, as well as offering a way to think outside the box. (Don’t worry, I didn’t do it during NaNoWriMo; I wrote all new words that month.)
And sometimes, I find something that’s worth keeping. Well, its skeleton is worth keeping. The framework, the style, the plotline(s), but Lord, not the actual meat and potatoes of the thing. Maybe some of it, but it’s going to have to be gutted in a big way. I’ve always liked the idea of the piece – it’s some kind of monstrous hybrid of travel memoir and straight fiction and memoiresque creative nonfiction – but I’ve been worried for some time that I wouldn’t be able to finish it because I wasn’t in the same head space as I was when I started it, back in the spring of 2008. But I think, now, the added perspective and distance will help me give more depth to the travel memoir/nonfiction part of it, and what I’ve learned in the last few months about novelcraft will help with the fiction bits.
It’s a daunting task; I won’t lie. In fact, all writing, it seems to me now, is a daunting task… not just something to take up the time, like it used to be. I think this coincides with my decision to become a professional writer, which is so, so different than the hobbyist. I’ve got to come to terms with the fact that I’ve got to find out who my audience is going to be, and write for them. People usually follow recommendations, but I’ve got to get the initial group of readers – whomever they might be – to pick up the book and go, yes, this is for me. And that thought makes me slightly uncomfortable. I don’t want to compromise my principles in this – especially in the realm of urban fantasy, which so easily slips into paranormal romance, a genre in which I am not especially interested – but at the same time, I want to make more than three and a half dollars when the damn thing comes out.
Most importantly, I want the damn thing to come out. At all. And publishing houses are, above all else, businesses. And businesses want to make money, and I’m pretty sure they couldn’t give a wet damn about your principles. Someone’s got too, though, and it may as well be me.
The point is, whether or not I can salvage anything useful from this travel memoir fiction (metafiction?), I will be taking this opportunity to find out if I can write stuff I’m not particularly interested in. I mean, how hard can it be to churn out three or four Harlequin romances a year?
So where do you draw the line? Where do you say, sure, I can do this, as long as I’ve got a pen name, and where does hell, no live? Where does doing what you love trump writing what you love?