Finished the first draft of another novel: Production Diary…

Yep, I did it again. Now, you might ask, didn’t I just finish a novel six months ago? Why am I writing another one? Is that other one revised? What’s going on here?

Well, it’s kind of a pipeline issue. This Beautiful Fever still hasn’t gone out on submission yet, and I can’t really have two YA novels out on submission at the same time, so Enter Title Here probably wouldn’t go out on submission until next spring / summer (at the earliest) anyway, which kind of takes some of the impetus off of revising it. And I also kind of wanted to turn in a portion of a novel for my thesis (due this January!), but it’s a bit hard to turn in a YA novel to an MFA program. I mean, it’s doable, but how good is the feedback really going to be?

And then, last April, I got a great idea for a short story. And the story spiralled out of control and became a novella that I then turned in to my workshop. But even the novella felt like it needed to be longer, so I decided it should probably be a novel. And since I’d already turned it in to my workshop, it’d be pretty easy to turn it in as my thesis (at Hopkins, your thesis needs to be something you’ve run through the workshop).

So anyway, I know that it’s very difficult to work on anything novel-length during the semester (because you’re constantly interrupted by deadlines for short stories), so I felt like I needed to husband my resources this summer. To that end, I decided that my priorities would (in order) be: a) Revise This Beautiful Fever accorded to agent comments; b) Write a first draft of Production Diary… (the novel I just completed; and c) Revise Enter Title Here at least enough that I could send it to first readers.

That way, This Beautiful Fever can (hopefully) go on submission during the spring and I can get comments back on Enter Title Here during the semester and then revise both it and Production Diary during the winter.

Anyways, I allocated about a month for each task, but everything got kind of skewed because revising This Beautiful Fever only took a week and drafting Production Diary took two months. Furthermore, two weeks ago, I got another round of comments on This Beautiful Fever, so now I’m going to revise that again.

Hopefully I can get to Enter Title Here sometime in August. (Dudes, I still have SIX more weeks of summer!)

Anyway, so that’s where I am, ta-da!

This is also my first adult realist novel. Yes, I have sold out and gone literary. I really don’t know if I like the novel, though. At several points during its writing, I considered abandoning it. Writing it was not easy or particularly fun (as opposed to writing Enter Title Here, which was an amazing rush). It’s hard to say why this is. I might’ve been in a bad mood because the novel is bad. Or it might be that I perceived it as being bad because I was in a bad mood. Or perhaps my bad mood resulted in the novel being bad, which only put me into a worse mood.

In any case, my mood picked up hugely about  two weeks ago, and I raced through the last third of the novel, which I actually feel alright about.

Not sure where this one will go, but I am glad I finished it and even if it turned out to be bad, I imagine that I learned a lot from it. Finishing a novel is cool, but what’s even cooler is the thought that this is just the kind of thing that I do nowadays.

I totally understand why people quit writing short stories.

calvin-and-hobbes-on-writing-3 I’ve only written three stories this year (and it’s half over; also, one of those stories was only 700 words long)! The last story I completed was finished on February 17th. This year I’ve almost exclusively done novel-related stuff: drafting and revising Enter Title Here¸ revising This Beautiful Fever, and, this summer, working on the first draft of a different novel.

Not only have I not been writing stories, I haven’t even been revising them. I have seventeen unrevised stories, with some of them dating back to January of 2012. Normally I take a month or two at the beginning of the year to revise my backlog. I didn’t do that this time. And my submissions pile is showing the damage. Half my stories aren’t out right now, because I don’t really have anywhere exciting to show them. If I had new stuff coming in, then I might retire old stuff, but that’s not really happening.

It’s a bit disappointing. I like to always be in a place where someone could email me with good news RIGHT NOW. And that’s not really where I am at the moment. The effort-to-reward time for a short story is really good. You can get good news within a few months of writing the story. For a novel, it’s very bad. I wrote the first draft of This Beautiful Fever two years ago, and I’m still not in the GOOD NEWS COULD HAPPEN RIGHT NOW phase. Actually, right now, there’s no chance of good news happening on that novel, since I am sitting on a second round of edits from the agent. Good edits. Sound edits. But as long as they’re hanging over me, the novel isn’t going anywhere. Hopefully I can get them done before I go to the Sewanee Writer’s Conference, but if I can’t, then I won’t be able to get them done until maybe mid-August. And the it’ll take him a month to read them. So, best case scenario, the novel doesn’t even go on submission until, like, mid-September–ten weeks from now!

And that’s for something I wrote two years ago.

The stuff I am writing now is even further from being in the GOOD NEWS COULD HAPPEN RIGHT NOW phase. Not actually clear how long their journey is, since I’ve only ever taken one novel from first-draft to submission, and that novel still hasn’t completed its revision lifecycle.

But, on the other hand, the prospect of writing more short stories is not too exciting. Firstly, because the last few stories I’ve been super excited about have gotten nothing but rejection. And, secondly, because the potential reward is so limited. I mean, I like reading short stories and I like writing them. But I also like getting readers and getting paid. And novels are where it’s at for that stuff.

And even though I’m a pretty fast writer, it does take a noticeable change in gears to switch over and write short stories, and I just haven’t felt like taking the effort.

The result is that I am in a different place nowadays, mentally. In some ways, it’s relaxing. I’m not worrying as much about submissions. I’m not tracking them obsessively. I’m not staying up at night wondering if some magazine is going to like my story. But I am also deprived of the pleasure of that kind of hope.

Sometimes I do think, “Wow, actually, the odds of an agented manuscript selling are much better than the odds of a story being accepted by Clarkesworld. So it’s not at all unlikely that something good could actually happen to me.”

But that prospect seems so remote. Any success that is further away than POSSIBLY RIGHT NOW is just too far into the mists of time for me.