Thursday 28th May 2020
I love it when a new idea comes together “before your eyes”.
Over the last week or so, I’ve been trying to formulate a few new ideas for future books. I’ve talked about my process works recently.
What I’m finding very interesting at the moment is an added constraint that’s come into my idea process. Ordinarily I’d let ideas form and not worry about the subgenre. I’d be happy if one idea was an epic fantasy, the next some magic realism.
But in thinking of career, I’m aware that especially early on, I’m very much likely to be pigeon-holed. The whole “more like that but different” request many writers get from publishers.
Strategically, I need to be able to pivot. If a book tanks, then I need to be able to present something entirely new. I know many writers who have reinvented their career and done so successfully. But if a book does well and a new contract is potentially on the table, it’s going to be hard to swap from urban fantasy to space opera. Not impossible – I know some people who have done it, but most of them have been able to do so because they’ve managed to make a brand of their name and use that as a way to pull readers across to new ventures.
So as I’m working on ideas currently, I’m very much considering how any idea may impact what I do next. For example, I have a great Weird Western idea. It feels totally unique, has an aesthetic I don’t think we often get to see in fantasy literature, and has a load of cool stuff in it.
BUT: If I get a contract for that book, I have to consider what comes next. If the weird western did great, commercially how easy would it then be to sell a swords and sorcery novel – especially early on in my career.
Now I know many people would wisely say, to worry about the current book. Careers in publishing are full of unexpected turns and challenges. But I need a steady rudder to guide me through stormy seas, and that rudder (for me) is having a career plan. A flexible one, most certainly, but one that allows me to navigate any current situation and get back on track.
So I’m finding that as I go through ideas, I’m categorising them into different stages of an imagined career – early novels that have a similar vibe (but are unique in their own way) that would be natural progressions for someone building up their career, mid-career novels that explore different genres, and those established career novels that are less commercial where I try and do some difficult things not really seen in fantasy.
I like this new idea (I’ll call it project x for now for the sake of tagging). It feels like an early career novel. I won’t say too much about it just yet as the ideas are in motion still but it started out as a heist-type story. What’s changed is that I’ve latched onto the idea of a team working together for a common goal and jettisoned the original heist idea. ideas are weird like that/
As soon as I focused on the idea of teams and thought about teams I’ve seen in pop culture that I like, the ideas started to flood in. That’s always a good sign for me.
The world-setting is pretty unusual for fantasy so I feel the rest needs to be fairly commercial, but from that I’ve got a basic idea of story.
Unusually, I don’t have any characters at this time, and that’s stopping me from taking those story situations and turning them into a proper plot. That’s next and I want a cast who will vibe and antagonize each other in equal measure.
I think the idea has legs, so in terms of mental energy, all of it is now narrowing down on this one.
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