So here I sit, on the horns of a dilemma. Not literally, of course, for this chair is much more comfortable than a bullhorn, or a French horn, or whatever kind of horn a “dilemma” has, but a bit uncomfortable nonetheless. Because I am confronted with a writing problem of the sort I have never encountered before. Well, two problems, actually, but they intersect.
Here’s the primary dilemma: I am 25,000 into my latest novel, The Cosmic City, third in The Stolen Future trilogy. I have actually mapped out a lot of what I want to have happen, and I know exactly how the story is going to end. However, I have also been given an opportunity to work on a collaborative project with several other authors, a project which holds a significant likelihood of publishing whatever piece I can write to fit into it. The problem is that, unlike many other writers, I do not work on multiple projects at once. I do not, in a word, multitask.
I also do not write quickly. To create, revise, and edit a short story for this other project could realistically take me a month. I would probably be working on that exclusively. This would mean setting aside The Cosmic City for a month (give or take), a step I am reluctant to take, because I had a timetable. However, even if I plow ahead, The Cosmic City will not be ready for months yet, and by that time the window for this other project will be closed.
To complicate matters, the second dilemma has recently surfaced, which is to say my work on The Cosmic City has been too successful. Novels are expected to reach a certain length, and I would like TCC to run around 80 – 85,000 words, as did its predecessor. However, I have now reached a point in the plot that I did not expect to reach until around 40,000 words. At this rate it looks as though it could wind up finishing somewhere in the neighborhood of 65,000 words. That’s no good. I want my readers to have a rich and immersive experience. So I am going to have to take a serious look at the novel’s structure to make sure I can attain the preferred word count.
Is this the right time to take a break from the novel, let it lie, and return with a fresh perspective? Or should I tackle the problem directly while I have a head of steam built up? And what about the very real possibility that I could be paid for the other project simply for writing and submitting (assuming it satisfies the editor) whereas self-published novels earn nothing unless you get out and push them (and sometimes not even then)?
You see here yet another reason why sane people don’t become writers. If you have this kind of problem at the office, you go to the break room or your partner’s office and hash it out. Novelists? We don’t have a break room, and most of us don’t have partners. We’re on our own.
Except I’m not. I have you.I know a lot of you are writers, and probably all of you are readers. And you have opinions. (It’s the Internet. Of course you have opinions.) So I’m not really alone. This is your chance to tell me how to run my life.
Got any ideas?
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