Should I Just Give Up?

[Warning: Another posting in my depression cycle. May include mopery.]

So I had this idea for a crime thriller, and thought maybe this time I’d try the traditional publishing route. Just to see if I could get any kind of traction.

Less than ten days from starting pre-writing to finishing the first draft, and it turns out All Roads Lead to Hell is only 40,000 words. So on the border between novella and novel (by some definitions), depending where revisions take it.

It’d need padding out to twice that length to be acceptable for submission to standard markets. There area a couple of extra chapters that could go in , and there’re gaps in the story where other stuff could be shoehorned. Maybe.

A quick look around doesn’t find many markets for crime thriller novellas, but I could always search further.

For the immediate future, I’m setting it aside to cool down while I get on with other work.

 

I have real trouble estimating how long a story will be. Even after breaking it down into chapters, I seem unable to call on past writing experience to properly gauge such things. And I’m not sure I really want to. The story’s going to be as long as it wants to be, and trying to force it to be otherwise to fit a certain standard seems dumb. Unless you want it traditionally published.

And I seem unable to write things of a commercially acceptable length (as defined by the traditional publishers). I feel part of the problem might be I’m too influenced by movies and television, so my storytelling muscle memory is drawing more from those than from other prose fiction. I’m not sure whether I can unlearn that though.

I also wonder whether writing so fast is part of the problem. I’ve tried slowing my writing rate slightly, but do feel an increasing desperation to produce more in a vain hope of breaking out of obscurity.

 

The not knowing whether I’ll ever achieve any success writing is causing increasing anxiety. I kind of want someone who’s opinion could be subjectively classed as authoritative to tell me I can’t write, and to stop trying. (More so than telling me I can, since I have trouble accepting praise.)

It’s tiring to keep pumping out stories that never find much of an audience. The readership for most of my stories is probably only in double digits (okay, some are in five digits, but that’s the free stuff). And even that might be too optimistic a view, since there’s no way of telling how many have been completed, or even read at all.

 

Of course I have no idea what else I’d do with my existence, so I’ll probably keep writing for now.

 

Behind Her Eyes – A Hype-Enhanced Reading

I can’t be the only writer, or reader, who takes the marketing of a book as having an ending you’ll never guess as a challenge. Which it basically is.

Can you outsmart the writer? Which is a stupid way of thinking of it. Because its the marketing campaign that’s making such a big deal of it. I doubt there’s many books where you can’t try to beat the author by guessing how it’ll end. But when the marketing campaign out and out challenge you like that, you can hardly not try to beat them.

Behind Her Eyes probably isn’t the kind of book I’d normally read. It sounds a bit too domestic, to be honest. But Sarah Pinborough had been entertaining at a convention I’d seen her at, and on twitter. And the book had good word of mouth. And there was that challenge. And it was on sale for a fiver in the first week (and not simply as the fastest in history to the bargain bin).

The writing draws you in, making it hard to put down. While the description makes it sound like a primarily relationship-centric story, the mystery behind it propelled me through the parts that may be less interesting to me. (Not that relationships aren’t at the heart of most stories, but it did sound a bit too soap opera-y for my tastes, and that kind of thing can rely on characters acting stupid.)

 

Looking For Clues

The pre-publication hype (of which there was quite a bit) and ARC reviews, while staying free of spoilers (that I saw), did admit there were supernatural elements. Which may be good, since it could discourage those inclined to dislike such on principle. It also gives a larger scope for what kind of things to look for.

And I found as soon as I had some ideas (and I had a few), I was looking for more buried beneath the obvious ones.

Since I did work out the two twists before they were revealed (around chapters 46 and 51 I got the end twist, and the deeper twist, respectively), I have to say it felt fair on the reader. No cheating, out of left field, surprises here. It was foreshadowed if you looked at it the right way. Admittedly a twisted way. Even then, though, I wasn’t certain I was right until the end.

It was only after finishing the book that I realised they were vaguely similar to twists I’d used in one of my stories, which may explain why I got them. And I can imagine the author had to resist the same impulse to laugh out loud when the idea struck.

 

Did the Hype Damage the Reading Experience?

Not for me.

I don’t feel that going in knowing there was, and looking for, a twist detracted from the story. If anything it may have encouraged engagement, getting me to look deeper than I might otherwise, in the hunt for clues. I did find myself admiring the way information was laced through the story, and how the pacing kept you moving too fast to necessarily focus on the clues.

I may well read it again soon, to deconstruct exactly how it was done.

Progress Report

I’ve finished an initial tidy up and review of the state of Paragon Protocols. The main bugbear must have cleaned up the last time I revised it (seven years ago), but there’s still a couple of things (at least) that need addressing.

First of all, there’s too much plot packed in there. Too much background detail on stuff that happened, which was sometimes a problem with some of my early work (shut up). I’d include too much detail to avoid plot holes, which then slowed down the story. So I’ll need to do a pass to pare that back. Not so much dumbing it down, as clarifying the main points and then getting out of the way of the story.

Secondly, it doesn’t feel all that novel, and I’m not sure how much of that’s down to my familiarity with it. Stories need an element of originality, even (or especially) if they aren’t really. As a result, I’m not sure how much time to waste on polishing it.

I might do the pass for the plot cull and see how I feel about it then. It’ll at least be a useful exercise. (Not that I don’t have other, more productive, work I could be getting on with.)

 

Waiting

I do occasionally submit stuff to the olden publication routes. Mainly short stories and such, since few of my longer works are long enough for the traditional markets. I usually try and put it out of mind until the inevitable rejection.

The anticipation gets more assertive when the story stumbles across themes that happen to become topical. Such as the alternative facts that kind of play a part in the novella I wrote in November. I submitted it to Tor.com’s novella imprint back in December. Their reviewing, of course, slowed over Christmas, and my weekdaily checks of its position say it hasn’t moved in a few weeks.

Not that there’s necessarily much I could do with it when they reject it (it’s easier to just assume stuff will be rejected, rather than get my hopes up every time and face the deepening of my default state of depression). I could possibly revise it to enhance that element, although I’m not sure how far the story will stretch in that direction. Then I’ll try submitting it to one place I know will accept something of that length (and then wait for them to reject it).

But even accepting there’s little I can really do with it, it’s frustrating to have a story that’s vaguely topical and not be able to do anything with it.

Although, now I consider it, probably not as frustrating as having it available to use and no idea what to do with it.

Take your time, Tor.com.