Well, it's been a year on, now, and I've had some time and breathing room to look back on my crazy ideas of 2015. Huntress of the Star Empire was a huge learning experience for me. I'm immensely proud of all the lessons I learned getting it out there in all its forms. I'm still far from done in the learning department, but I've captured a few thoughts here.
Five Things I Learned From Launching A Sci-Fi Romance Series
- You can be the tortoise and the hare at the same time. The plot of the draft of "Huntress" had long-running threads that grew progressively more tense as the story went on, but the action itself often happened in short scene-bursts. I loved the fact that I could keep a certain "tone" through a single episode, but still maintain momentum when I switched subplots.
- You have more time to "settle in" for the ride. Knowing this was a series, I had much less of an issue than I usually do with "frontloading" - piling on worldbuilding or character-building information that the reader doesn't need to know right away. Many of my initial drafts of whatever I write are heavy on the "a thousand years before the start of our story, Middle Earth was..." This is all stuff the writer needs to know, the reader may find out, and only the students in the far future studying the work after death might really care about.
- You aren't that special. In the previous three titles I published, that action of hitting "Publish" was a momentous event. I worried and I fretted, and every little fault became a career-crushing thing in my mind. When the act of hitting "Publish" is one more thing to tick off the ol' weekly task list, all of a sudden, you stop worrying about all the microscopic imperfections. You worry about hitting your deadlines, and hitting the points you have to hit to stay on track. Which brings me to #4...
- You stop eating the scenery. In acting, there's a thing called "eating the scenery" where an actor, in an effort to get the audience's attention, goes over the top and will eat the scenery in order to maintain the attention. In writing terms, that often means unnecessarily convoluting your plot, or dropping in backstory or worldbuilding blocks when you feel like your story isn't "enough" (and most of the time, your instincts there are wrong--it's self-doubt that tells you to put this cool-but-random element in there. Backstory almost never solves a plot problem). When you've got a weekly schedule, the points you need to hit (versus the canoodling that might be interesting-but-irrelevant) become much more clear. On a deadline, you aim for those points first. They turn out to be the points that most move the story along, which is the stuff people want to read.
- You can't beat the rush. There's nothing quite like getting into a rhythm of "write, publish, repeat" that makes this feel like a Real Job(TM). And yes, watching those little dots appear on the sales graph is a pretty big rush, too. But the sense of accomplishment--of having that story play out and getting my characters live and into their world--it's something amazing, and it reminds me why I didn't become a programmer or an engineer or any one of a number of much more stable jobs out there.
However--not all my lessons learned were happy ones. Tune in next week to Learn From My Fail