I have now finished restructuring Book 3. I still think dividing these books into parts is the best decision I’ve made. It allows me to focus more narrowly on two to three POV characters at once rather than trying to jump between too many characters. That works for some writers, but it’s just not my style.
I’m happy to say that my planned restructuring has worked really well so far in Book 2. Instead of having the reader bouncing between a ton of stories at once, I’ve divided the book into parts that focus on fewer stories at once. I’ll need to do a little more smoothing out to make it work, but I no longer feel like these books are a mess.
I was probably being my own toughest critic, as usual.
I may have been premature yesterday in stating that I’m putting Empire of Chains aside for the moment. It has some problems, especially in the later books, but I might be able to fix these problems through editing. I still feel the first book is the strongest, but only for the moment. I think I can make the others just as strong. It will simply take more work than usual during the revision process.
The more I think about it, the more I realize this is the story I want to tell. It just has some rough spots. And when I get into a bad depressive phase, all I can see are those rough spots. Thankfully, that mood has lifted, and now I’m looking at it more objectively.
So I have some news that may be both good and bad. After some more consideration, as well as input from a trusted reader, I’ve determined that it is not yet time to go through with plans of publishing Empire of Chains (and its sequels). Quite simply, it is not the story I would like it to be.
In order to make the necessary corrections, I pretty much have to start all over. I don’t know when I’ll write it because I need time to change the things that need changing.
In the meantime, I do have two other series I feel much better about. I will likely turn my attention to those series. One of them, Sunweaver, still has the first book under consideration in the Angry Robot Open Door. Most of the entries have been read at this point, but I’m still waiting on a response.
I also have A Song of War, the first book of my God War series. It’s more of a gunpowder fantasy. I haven’t done much editing on it, but I have a pretty clean first draft to work with.
I may also get working on some other projects.
In a way, this is good news. When I get Empire of Chains out there (and the title may still be subject to change), it will be a much stronger book and more in line with the writer I’ve become rather than the writer I was when I first started writing it at fifteen.
Each iteration has been an improvement, and I’m hopeful that one last try will give me the series I’ve envisioned. Don’t get me wrong. There are some aspects of what I have that I think are very good, but it also has its fair share of issues, and they’re not issues I can correct without completely reworking the story.
So I don’t know when exactly I’ll begin publishing. There’s still a part of me holding out hope for trade publishing. For anyone who’s interested, I can send you copies of some of my books if you’d like to read them and provide feedback.
This wasn’t an easy decision to come to, but these concerns have been in my mind for a while now. The fact that I can’t get rid of them shows that they are valid concerns. I want my readers to have the best product I can provide, and what I have right now does not fit that description.
I’m making steady progress on book 4 of Empire of Chains. After 4,000 words today, I have now written nearly 24,000 words in the last 9 days. Surprisingly, this pace feels comfortable for me. I aim for 2,000 a day, and anything over that is an extra bonus.
I’ve had my doubts as I go through this self-publishing process. This is actually the third time I’ve decided to go through it. I backed out the first two times, but I’m determined to see things through this time. That doesn’t mean it isn’t scary. It is probably the most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in terms of life choices.
Well, deciding to go back for a second round of college might compete there. But now I’m feeling really good about that decision.
I’m excited to finish this series. These characters and this story are originally from the first novel I ever wrote. By now, they feel like old friends. I completed the series once before, but I did not have the experience as a writer to do it justice. Now it has become a much stronger story, and I’m excited for people to read it.
I know this is one of the biggest debates in the self-publishing industry. Is it better to write and publish 4+ books a year because it creates more opportunities for readers to see your books and buy them? Or is it better to put your focus on 1-2 books a year and make them as good as you can before sending them out there?
I tend to be a fast writer. The 1,667 words needed per day for National Novel Writing Month have never been a problem for me. When I’m really in the zone, I can write 6,000+ words a day. My normal output is probably more in the 1,500 to 4,000 range. Because of this, I could theoretically put out 3-4 books a year.
But I have to ask myself if that’s the right thing to do. I need time to edit my books, and no amount of editing passes ever seems like enough. I always catch something I feel I could improve.
That being said, four months doesn’t seem like it’s too little to write and edit a book. If I’m writing at my general pace, the first draft shouldn’t take more than two months. Then I’ll probably leave that novel sitting for a month or two while I work on something else (either a sequel or another series). I can also edit one book while writing the first draft of another. So it wouldn’t be like my books only take four months. In truth, they take longer, but that includes time for them to sit and for me to look at them with fresh eyes each time I do an editing pass.
Personally, I’d like to find a middle ground in the quality vs. quantity debate. I want my work to be high-quality, but I don’t want to spend too long between books. The self-publishing business is very fickle, and if you drop off the radar, you often have to start all over again with your next book.
Thankfully, I already have a decent catalogue of novels I can publish right out the gates. Empire of Chains is a few editing passes from being ready. Sunweaver, the first book of another epic fantasy series, is in about the same place (though currently it’s on submission in the Angry Robot Open Door, which is why I haven’t talked about it much). I also have a first draft written of a third epic fantasy, tentatively titled A Song of War. It’s only been lightly edited at this point.
In addition to all that, I’ve already drafted books 2 and 3 of Empire of Chains, and I’ve started on book 4. I’ve also started on book 2 of Sunweaver.
Then there are all the ideas floating around in my head.
In truth, the ability to publish multiple books a year is part of what makes self-publishing so attractive to me. I have so many ideas, and I want readers to see them. At the same time, however, I do not want to sacrifice quality.
In the end, I’ll aim to get books out quickly, but not so quickly that I sacrifice quality. They will take however long they take.
But don’t worry. I have no intention of being George RR Martin and taking an eternity to write the next book in a series. Of course, my books aren’t nearly as long as his. Empire of Chains, my longest at 167,000 words, is just over half the length of A Game of Thrones, the shortest novel in Martin’s series.
In the end, it comes down to respecting the reader. This comes in two forms. On the one hand, you respect the reader by writing at a good pace and getting new material out there. On the other, you also respect the reader by giving them a quality product every time.
I’d like to come down somewhere in the same territory as Brandon Sanderson. He writes at a quick rate and publishes multiple books a year (unless he’s working on a Stormlight Archive book). The books, at least in my opinion, are consistently high-quality. That’s what I hope to be.
Thanks for reading this rambling discussion.
I wrote about 3500 words today. I didn’t manage to do any editing, though. I’m interested to see where book 4 ends up. I know generally what I want to happen, but a lot of the details are still in the air. I used to be very much an outliner, though I built in some flexibility. Now I seem to be more of a mental outline writer. I know generally what I want to happen, but how I get from one point to another can be interesting.
In fact, I sometimes make drastic changes based on the feel of the story. For example, I originally planned Empire of Chains to be something like 8 to 10 books. Then I cut it down to 7, then 5.
Then, right around the time I finished the third book, The Gilded Empire, I realized I only needed one more book to tell the story.
I’ve had a similar realization with one of my other series, Sunweaver. I originally planned for it to be 4 books, but I think it will be stronger if I cut that down to 3 books.
I guess that’s part of being a writer. You always tweak things in the process. If you’re not constantly trying to improve, you’re doing it wrong.