As I trundle along on the revision of Warrior and Witch, I find myself reflecting in certain ways that I was less inclined to, back when I wasn’t actually paid to do this stuff.
It’s easier to get scared, these days. I know people are going to read this. In the past, if I botched a work (and yes, I did, more than once, the most painful example being the first draft of Sunlight and Storm), then I could shelve it for a while until I knew how to make it better. More to the point, I was more willing to gamble in those days, because if I aimed high and missed, no one had to know.
To put it quite bluntly, I got very ambitious with certain aspects of Warrior and Witch, and a few of them blew up in my face. Now I’m sorting through the pieces, deciding which ones I can attack again and thereby make work, and which ones need to be excised as failed experiments, things I’m not ready to pull off just yet. I’m learning many valuable lessons in the process, of course. Spent some time tonight doing statistical analysis, since one of the gripes was that a particular character was getting too much screen time over another. Turns out to not be true, not by a long shot (the supposedly neglected character’s getting more than half again as much wordage, in terms of pov scenes, than the supposedly excessive character), but from this I learn that (duh) wordcount isn’t everything. So now I’m experimenting whether I can, through jiggery-pokery, bump up the prominence of the “neglected” character without actually ripping out half the “excessive” character’s scenes. I might have been better off agreeing to a third book, and splitting the plot of this one so it spanned two volumes, but I’m still glad of the decision I made; I fear my enthusiasm for this project wouldn’t have sustained me through a third book.
The problem is, there’s an easy way out of the problem: stop being so ambitious. I wouldn’t be in this situation if I hadn’t tried to write a sequel that would be noticeably larger in scope and complexity than its predecessor. And honestly, there are plenty of authors who do exactly that, and sell well, and have fans, and sometimes I myself am on of those fans. I can enjoy more of the same, if it’s competently done.
But I wasn’t willing to take that way out. And let me state here and now — since, in my own personal psychological calendar, January is the month I dedicate to ambition (in place of New Year’s Resolutions) — that I vow never to give up on ambition. Even if it means I find myself choking on indigestible tangles of political intrigue the day I decide finally to tackle The Iron Rose, I’ll still give it a shot.
Because I refuse to settle for just treading water, however comfortable it may be.