Hello again, dreamers. This is it: the final push. It is my ardent hope that by the end of this week the first draft of The Pioneer will be complete.
I’d like to say it’s going well, but to be honest it’s been a trudge thus far. I knew these final chapters would be difficult: I have a lot of ends to tie off, and knew going in that these would be action-packed chapters with a lot going on. But as things have slowed down, I’ve started to realize I need to take a moment to reassess. I need to do this right. After spending several months hard at work on this story, laying down a lot of words I’m very proud of, I owe it both to myself and this story to bring everything to a thrilling, satisfying conclusion.
That being said, I have a busy week ahead of me. Here’s what’s coming:
At the start of each phase of my work-in-progress thus far, I’ve felt a degree of uncertainty and trepidation. Yet never were those feelings so pronounced as they were when I began Phase 4. It’s sensible, I suppose, to feel this way as I prepare to write the conclusion of the story I’ve spent months writing and years planning. But, despite my reservations, I’m pleased to say that the first chapter of Phase 4 might well have been the best chapter I’ve written in this story.
Then, I began writing the second chapter of this phase. And then, things ground to a halt.
As of this writing, I’ve spent the better part of three days writing (or attempting to write) the second chapter of Phase 4. The first few paragraphs went well, but as I attempted to switch scenes I found myself lost.
I began looking toward the end of the story, and was suddenly paralyzed with doubt. It felt as though I had a multitude of ugly loose ends, and tying them all together in a mere five chapters would be nigh impossible. I felt overwhelmed, and because I wanted to start wrapping up every subplot at once I kept rewriting the second scene of the chapter, each time fully convinced that one particular plot needed to be addressed now.
Ultimately, all it took was a step back. Over the course of writing this story, I’ve made a lot of changes, and many of those changes were made to simplify the story: eliminating unnecessary subplots and plot devices, removing dense foreshadowing that ultimately took more from the story than it offered. Through it all, I narrowed my focus, cutting away countless useless side plots leaving me with one clear path from start to finish.
It is, I’ve come to remember, not the first time I’ve done this. Originally, when writing Wide Horizon, the story was far longer and more complex. Most notably, the crew was to have visited a great many worlds that had once lain within the boundaries of the fallen Solar Republic, seeing firsthand how the inhabitants of different planets coped with being cut off from Earth. As the story developed, however, I came to realize all of that complexity was not only cumbersome and unnecessary, but in fact it detracted from the story. It might have been good, perhaps even ideal, were I planning to write an entire series of novels, but from the start Wide Horizon was intended as a stand-alone work.
So, over the course of the past few weeks, I’ve had to rein in The Pioneer as well. I may not have chosen the right way to do it. I may, during early revisions and subsequent editing, change the story dramatically, perhaps even revisiting various passages and subplots I’ve removed. But for now, it may be that the best way to finish this draft is to embrace this new, more concise path to the conclusion. So that is what I intend to do.
After The Pioneer
It goes without saying that even after the first draft is complete my work on The Pioneer will be far from over. I likely have at least a year of revisions, beta reading, and editing ahead of me before I’m ready to begin shopping this novel around, and even then I’m unlikely to begin querying until I’ve found a home for Wide Horizon (and who knows how long that will take). In any event, however, the fact remains that I will have reached a major milestone.
Thus, for a time I plan to take a step back from my beloved work-in-progress. It will be a long break, likely at least a month, before I return to begin revisions with the work no longer fresh in my mind. Judging by recent experience, it will be hard to stay away for too long, but if my revisions are to be productive I need to be able to stay away long enough to view my work objectively.
In the meantime, I will take this opportunity to begin work on a number of other projects, some of long standing, all demanding further attention. This includes various pieces of short fiction, as well as several novel concepts, one of which will likely become my next work-in-progress.
On the subject of short fiction, I would very much like not only to continue working on several unfinished stories but also to explore new ideas. I have noticed, over the years, that my short fiction pieces tend to follow certain themes, which change over time. Over the past year, my short fiction has largely consisted of hard sci-fi: stories in which the primary focus is not on the characters but on some form of natural peril they face. As I mentioned recently, I’ve considered putting together a self-published collection of short stories with hard sci-fi themes. Tentatively, I’ve begun calling this collection Unrealized Realities: the term I often use to describe my various unfinished projects.
As for novels, it’s little secret that writing The Pioneer has been taxing. Rewarding, yes, but exhausting as well. With that said, and knowing that The Pioneer is to be the first book in a lengthy series, I cannot help but feel inclined to work on some softer fare as work on The Pioneer continues. If nothing else, it would provide me with a periodic escape from reality…and the constant struggle to predict the reality of the future. I have several stories in mind, but most likely I’ll spend the next month or two working alternately on all of them, until one of them finally takes on a life of its own and demands to be written.
There are big things ahead. I must admit I’m looking forward to completing the first draft of The Pioneer if only to know it is done. Hopefully, by the time I make my next Writer’s Desk post, I’ll have the first draft behind me. Until then: read, comment, and dare to dream. – MK