So today I read a (very long) blog post by Chuck Wendig, which addresses what a mid-career writer should be concerned about. You don't see a lot of these blog posts as most tend to be geared either towards beginning writers, or address very specific aspects of writing and not so much career stuff. It was an interesting read, though quite a lot of it didn't apply for me because I'm self-published (he talks about agents and advances and such). But two aspects did stand out: 1) find a way to survive as a writer and 2) it's a smart idea to spend some time thinking about your writing goals.
In terms of #1, the idea is that mid-career is when a lot of people throw in the towel. Wendig emphasizes the survival goal as being the most important because of this. I think he's right, though I don't worry that much about quitting. I need to write to stay sane. If I take breaks for a couple of months at a time, no big deal, because I know I'll come back to it. If I don't, my mental health quite literally suffers, so there's really no choice in the matter. Of course I get discouraged when my sales tank (which they aren't doing right now so much as dipping rather unpleasantly), but in the end it doesn't matter. I could never sell another book again, I'd still have to write.
For #2 Wendig talks about how he plans his goals for one year, five years, and ten years. Reading that made me want to make myself a flowchart, so I could visualize my goals. I didn't go beyond a year(ish), though. I mean, my five year goal is basically to have completed the goals in the flowchart, and I can't picture what comes after that. General stuff, sure: be selling enough that I can use some of the money to pay for marketing, for one thing. But that's not a goal I can control so it's just sort of floating there. The one year goals are much more doable, so I focused on those. Of course it's probably more accurate to see them as like, three year goals. Even without two kids (and a third on the way! Yep, I'm insane--it was a surprise, folks, and I'm happy about it but woo-nelly, am I going to be swamped come mid summer)* there's too much to do to finish within a year. And one goal is to try to get traditionally published so that's going to take more than a year anyway, especially since I haven't finished the first draft of the novel I plan on submitting.
Anyway, here's the chart:
The City Darkens and After the Fall) about how I need to get the third book out ASAP. I did start working on it a few months ago, but I didn't have a lot of it planned out and ended up stopping because I didn't know where I wanted to take it. I've been thinking about it lately, though, and I think I will probably get back to work on it soon.
I will definitely be writing another Veronica book (which would be book 5). I have several ideas for book 5 as well as book 6, and the world and characters are so familiar and easy to get into now, it's just a matter of deciding that's what I'm doing next, and I'll crank it out. As such, though, it's not my top priority. I do think the Veronica series is the most likely to seriously take off. The decopunk trilogy is going to be too weird for a lot of people, and it has some flaws I just can't figure out how to fix, though I love the story and the characters. The decopunk trilogy has been such an opportunity to stretch myself as a writer, and for me that's worth it, but I am realistic about it. It's not what I set out to do when I started it, for one thing. I trying to create a story like Kushiel's Dart, only set in a decopunk 1920s type world. Loads of people (myself included) wish they could visit Terre d'Ange, and I wanted to create a setting like that. What came out, though, was a cold dystopia I would avoid visiting pretty much at all costs, though. Too much of my cynicism found its way into those books, and book three is going to be very much in the same vein. I don't know if I'm even capable of creating a world that people want to visit or live in. That's actually the core of my goal with the YA magic school series (which may end up being a New Adult rather than YA series, depending on how much sex I want to include--I haven't decided). Yes, I am absolutely going to aim for something reminiscent of Hogwarts, because I love Hogwarts, and I want to manage to write about a setting I love. I'll deviate quite a bit, too. For one thing, I dream of visiting the Mediterranean again one day, so the setting of my magic school will no doubt be very much a place like Corsica or Greece. Maybe it'll be inspired by Ancient Greece, or at least a fantasy version of Ancient Greece. And I can tell you that it's going to be a bit of a response to The Magicians, which I was terribly disappointed with. I mean, come on, what a cool premise! A college like Hogwarts, with adult students learning magic? A loser kid who has a chance to have everything he ever dreamed of? So cool! And then the loser kid never changes or grows or enjoys the gifts he's given. I wanted to throttle him. Anyway. Trying to talk back to The Magicians--that ought to challenge me to step away from my cynicism. If there's a core flaw in The Magicians it's the book's awful cynicism. But in any case, that one's not going to happen any time soon, I want to finish the trilogy and the book I labeled Twin in the flowchart first.
Twin is the working title of the book I wrote during NaNoWriMo this year (made it to 50K!). It was going well but I needed a break because carving out time to write every day was quite a strain on the family. But I'm definitely finishing it, I have lots of notes and ideas. The big question is, do I start with that or the third decopunk book?
And then there's the story of my grandmother Evelyn's life. I found out the third baby is a boy, so there goes my plan to honor my grandmother by naming a child after her (Evelyn used to be a boy's name, up until the 20th century, but I'm not going to saddle a boy with it). My grandmother was the most amazing woman, and one of the kindest, most generous people I have ever known. She used to tell stories of her life all the time, and she had such a fascinating life. Some of the stories were no doubt embellished, and some of my memories of the stories have probably distorted them. And on top of that if I were to write a novel based on her life I'd have to fill in a lot of blanks. So it really would be a novelization of her life. But I think it would be pretty awesome, nevertheless.
And finally the space opera idea... I love soap operas. I love cheesy space stories like Flash Gordon (and A New Hope--it is a space opera, folks, even if it's franchise has perhaps risen above that since--perhaps). The thing that really draws me to write something like that is the challenge of creating amazing worlds and locations, like Cloud City in Empire Strikes Back. Say what you will about Flash Gordon, it took a powerful imagination to create that setting! So often worlds are clearly based on Earth and Earth's existing cultures, but in FG if that's the case it's really not obvious to me. The worlds in FG aren't even spheres! They are floating island-like places with various climates and topography. How does a person imagine places like that? That would be the challenge. Again, that's not happening right away, but I do see it happening most likely within the next three years. We'll see, of course. Another idea may come along and demand to go first. I'm not one to ignore that kind of thing.
What are your writing goals? Can you see beyond the immediate ones, to five or even ten years down the line? What ideas are percolating for you, story-wise?
*FYI if you are my friend on Facebook (not my author page, I'm talking friends with my personal profile) I haven't made an official announcement about the baby yet. All of my immediate family know, but I do intend to put together some sort of cute picture, so please keep the secret until then!