Wednesday, 19 January 2011

So Now: I Have a Plan!

Something very bad happened a few days ago – life gave me a few days when pretty much all I was able to do was sit back and think. (So I had the 'death flu'.) And I came to the conclusion that I was not particularly satisfied with how things were going; this certainly isn't what I had in mind ten years ago. Not that I had much in mind ten years ago, I suppose...great, now I feel old. Not quite what I had in mind when I started this.

I'll start again.

I want to be a writer. I think I'm reasonably good at it, and those who have been exposed to my work have essentially agreed. So that's what I'm going to do. End goal – to make a living out of writing. Sounds impossible, and perhaps it is, but then – perhaps it isn't. The market is changing rapidly, constantly, and in particular, the rise of the 'eReader' is gaining in pace. (You can take my Kindle out of my cold, dead hands...) And from the looks of it – and from the research I've done over the last couple of days, publishers simply aren't keeping up with this.

So here comes the plan. I think that I can write at least two, maybe even three books a year given my current amount of time off, pitched around the 40,000-60,000 word level. I'll invest some money in getting them properly and professionally produced, my research suggests somewhere in the region of £300 will be required per book for layout and cover art. The days when I slap this together myself are over; although I can put together a magazine by myself, I think the professionals will do a far better job. Editing I can do myself, proofreading – I'm sure I can con a few people into helping me out there!

So what do I write? Aside from this blog? Well, I currently have four things in mind, which I intend to narrow down a little. I know that one valuable trick is the 'series', so at least one series sounds like an excellent idea to me, and there are two possibilities for where this comes in.

So, Book 1 – which I'm going to start pretty much immediately. High fantasy, set in a land of swords and sorcery, magic and wonder. Obviously Tolkien and his predecessors are the key here, I've had enough experience with fantasy fiction, and spent enough time concocting campaigns in that genre, that I know I can come up with something special. Two keys here. One is that the preparation for the book will also be preparation for a campaign I'm hoping to run in the not-to-distant. (Don't worry, any readers in my Trek campaign, no way am I giving that one up. I'm going to do both! Yes, I am mad. Yes.) The beauty of this is that some of the material for the book will emerge out of the campaign as it evolves – as well as providing me with a lot of material for later books as the campaign continues. I have a sneaky suspicion that quite a few authors actually do this.

The other schtick here is that there is the possibility that I can turn this into tie-in fiction quite easily with one of the Old School Revolution games – D&D analogues, published legally under something called the Open Gaming Licence; I don't anticipate any problems along these lines. After I've got the book properly started - hopefully in a couple of weeks - I'll contact the publisher and see if he has any objections

Book 2 – hard science-fiction, based on a great site called 'Atomic Rockets'. That does a lot of the research allowing me to concentrate on the actual story. Which at the moment is a classic 'long con' set on Pluto and its moons – I've been obsessed about the Kuiper Belt for a long time now, and a book is a good way of working that out! Very much 'style of Firefly' here, I think, and that I reckon is key to this. I have an interesting plot in mind. No real tie-in possibilities here of course, this one would have to stand alone. The key – as much scientific accuracy as I can manage. I actually wrote a short story in this setting a few weeks ago that I was reasonably satisfied with and will post shortly.

Book 3 – Ok, so I'm a fan of the post-apocalyptic genre, whether with or without zombies. But I don't feel that the genre is being very well served at present from a literary standpoint; there has been the marvellous World War Z, but the edge of reality seems considerably blunted in many of these books. So – a realistic post-apocalyptic novel. The catch here is that it would be difficult to turn this into a prolonged series without leeching away all of the drama and interest, but for 'one big novel', there are definitely possibilities here.

Book 4 – Technically, this is two books – well, two potential books. Either one of which I could write. I've been working on my 'History of the U.S. Army Space Program', provisionally called 'Missiles to the Moon' for years now, and done a mountain of research. This one definitely makes the rostrum of books to write this year. I want to get this out of my system, and I think I can do it in fairly short-order now. The problem here is that it doesn't really mesh with much else I plan to do, and that I don't really have any follow-up books in mind. I do have 'Alternate Apollos' potential 'other takes' on the moon program in my head, but that really would include the U.S. Army stuff, and is really more of an alternative way to write that book. But I'm going to write it.

The plan is basically to write three books in three genres and see what is working. Then I turn one of them into a series and produce two books a year, whilst producing a third on a different topic to keep me fresh. Now if I was doing this full-time, I'm fairly certain I could manage five or six books a year – I may not be Shakespeare, but I am fast – but obviously the amount I need to make on this needs to be over a certain level before I can do that. Though I think it is actually possible to do.

Quite a first post.

So what am I doing today? Today I build a world. Usually takes six days, but I'm a little pressed for time.

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