Remixing November

Okay, so, first up – I am going to be upping the prices on my self-published efforts as of January 2022.

The short, quick explanation is that if I sell around 500 copies of a work (Dog Country has, if we factor in the Kindle Unlimited thing, sold around 450-500 copies) I, at present, earn back in royalties about… $1000? Ish?

It is a little thin, especially now that life circumstances mean I need to try and earn a bit more, and while I’d like to assume I can increase my sales numbers going forward, I think I need to see if I can put my prices up and still get the sales.

So I’m gong to be increasing my prices – not by a huge amount in most cases, but Dog Country will be going from $4.99/$9.99 to $5.99/$14.99, for ebook/print respectively.

So, be aware that’s happening!

Otherwise, my November’s been busy. Alarmingly so in some areas.

Most alarmingly? I, uh. … So on November 4th I posted on twitter that I’d broken past the 100 000 words in a year mark for the first time since 2014.

Well. About that. It’s now about 146 000 for the year. I… I don’t know what happened either. I am currently elbow-deep in working on Mouse Cage/The Troy Salcedo thing, and… it’s working for me. A lot of this month – when things haven’t been busy with life stuff – has gone into the Troy thing. And, yes, I do need to admit that means I haven’t been resting, and I need to, but. Being able to write, and enjoy writing, is intoxicating. It just is.

It could be that Troy Salcedo is a character who’s been knocking around in the back of my head for a little over a decade at this point, and I just know him so well the words flow. It could be that I’m rewriting old material in a way that uses previous stories almost like an outline, and because I know exactly how the story goes I can just hammer my way through it.

Either way, it’s going faster than I thought and I’m a little bit frightened of putting the project down to get other things done, just in case this unusual burst of productivity is a kind of momentum I could lose. And just in case it helps me pick it up later, I’m going to talk a bit about what’s going on so I can refer back to it later.

Originally I intended to hit pause on the Troy Thing once I reached the junction point between the oldest of old material (When he makes a speech about his life in the research labs that produced the furries of San Iadras, pre-emancipation, and meets Jennifer Dixon) and the sub-plot in the earliest drafts of Dog Country (where his life turns absolutely upside down), but… somehow that pause didn’t happen. I’m still going, I’m racing through it, and… I’m probably going to have to go back and rewrite my rewrites.

Before digging into how the rewriting process works, there is that element to consider – that I know this character, this setting, these stories. That old saw, ‘write what you know’, applies here. I have written itty-bitty-snippets of conversations between these characters for years, and years. I know the layouts of parts of the setting because I’ve had scenes drifting past the same landmarks over and over. And working on all this stuff – from Dangerous Jade to Dog Country to Mouse Cage/The Troy Thing, and contemplating future stories… I do find myself wondering how I developed that familiarity.

If that familiarity is part of why I can write so fast, so confidently, I would like to learn how to foster that familiarity with other works and new settings.

My best guess is that it’s a case of putting the work in. I’ve focussed a lot on outlining and pre-work, especially with Aconite Braid – which was very heavy on the outlining – but outlining is about… plot motion. The events moving through the story. While it does cover characters and their emotions, it doesn’t do that very well.

Aconite Braid is built on some very old bones – notes and stories I started work on long before San Iadras. I made a couple of attempts to write it way back when, but those didn’t really pan out plotwise. But in those early writing attempts I did come up with some of the interpersonal dynamics of two major characters, Hope and Wallman.

It may be that I need to intentionally write material that doesn’t really get shown. Deliberately play with characters and scenes and settings without a larger plot in play to get to know them – start to build these characters and their lives and worldviews early, get that intimacy with them as a parallel preparation method to go along with the outlining. That may come up more heavily when/if I get into the Space Opera, since many of the characters in that are still very new to me.

It could also be a case of working on a first draft of sorts – which brings me to rewrites.

I used to be very, very confident about doing rewrites. More than once I effectively trashed an entire novella so I could write it over again from scratch. I was working from a perspective of abundance – there would always be more time, more words, and if I had to rip out a scene and replace it wholesale that was just fine.

(This got me into a bit of trouble when I was doing work for hire stuff – when I found that the writing wasn’t going quite right, I’d rip up everything I’d done and literally start over from scratch. And the next version was better, and the version after that was better… but this method didn’t work too well with a deadline ahead of me.)

The thing about rewrites is that there’s always the fear that I mess it up, that I somehow mar what I’ve already done. And… so far this isn’t really something I think I’ve ever done, but I have gone back to the earlier drafts and found a really great line I failed to bring over to the newer one – and I’ve always been happy to make the save.

There’s also the fear of wasting time and effort – spinning my wheels to make no progress beyond splattering mud everywhere. That’s possible, and it’d really suck to be stuck on a single project forever because there are tons and tons of things I want to write.

But. Working on this decade-old material and rewriting that? It’s… it’s really interesting how free I feel to tweak some quite major details. It could be the massive distance between me and the work, or the fact that the older material has much more obvious scope for being improved, but these rewrites are easy compared to the Aconite Braid work I was doing a few months ago.

So far I’m doing two kinds of rewrite on the Troy stuff. One is line-by-line, where I almost literally just copy in the old material and then rewrite it one paragraph at a time, erasing the old story as I go. That has shown me both that I used to do some excellent work, and that I’ve managed to improve a ton in the intervening years. The other involves making a huge gap in the story, and starting to fill it in with short outline-esque statements until I have a clear direction, and then writing the replacement material almost entirely fresh. A lot of the especially old material has had this treatment, just, making a huge gap and writing fresh new material into it. That seems to be where a lot of the speed has come from, actually – that’s the material I’ve been tracking that has somehow thrown an extra 40 000 words at me this month. The Troy Thing Manuscript is currently hovering around 100 000 words, and so far around 50 000 of that is just… new in that way.

Like, there’s an old scene from years ago where Troy goes on this run to get away from what’s going on in his head? And I’ve pinched some great lines from the old thing, but structurally it’s all changed. Instead of being forced away from his run by external events, now Troy realizes that he’s been running towards this landmark from his youth, and that that’s not where he really wants to go – he turns around by himself. And I think that change is great, but it also totally invalidates the following three or four scenes so I had to rewrite those, and that meant I had to rewrite another scene almost from scratch, and…

It’s like a whole new, living, breathing story.

… It’s almost like getting to write fanfic of my own work?

It’s weird. I like it. I’m not entirely sure where it’s going, and it has kept me away from Aconite Braid’s edits – but a lot of literary agents slow down or close submissions over December, so, maybe that slow down on AB isn’t the worst thing, while I’m running after this story that’s working for me.

In a way, working on this stuff is self-indulgent, too, and that may be another factor to this burst of productivity. The Troy story is all character-based and revolves around these characters and this setting I hold dear to my heart, it’s not spending the majority of the time with my artistic skills stretched out past my comfort zone. It’s writing stuff almost for myself. Almost.

Maybe I ought to figure out how to do more of that.

As 2021 rolls towards its conclusion, I hope you all have very happy holidays, and that you seize the days to squeeze as much enjoyment and relaxation and love out of them as you can.

As ever, thank you all so much for your support – and thank you all for being witnesses to and encouragement for me to keep pursuing my journey with writing.

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By foozzzball

Malcolm Cross, otherwise known as 'foozzzball', lives in London and enjoys the personal space and privacy that the city is known for. When not misdirecting tourists to nonexistant landmarks and lurking at bus stops, Malcolm enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy with a furry twist.