Oh, drama! This week was the designated week for me to get started on a new story, which was technically Helleville. Unfortunately I got bogged down by my hand-wringing over novel-length stuff and ended up scrapping an entire writing day to all kinds of writerly existential angst. I got online, dug up articles and blog posts regarding the short fiction market, and in the end, I got into an email exchange with my publisher regarding her thoughts on the matter.
And that helped a lot, in addition to a quick chat I had with a writer of lesbian romance fiction who’s currently self-publishing fairy tale novellas.
Anyway, I decided to cut back on my novel-length fiction – at least indefinitely. My plan is to keep my Masks series going with novel sequels, of course, but that’s also because Eric’s universe is packed with so many possibilities as far as sequels go. And since there’s really no major story arc that strings all of the books together, I write them episodically – like a sitcom, pretty much.
But as far as new contemporary fantasy and especially historical fantasy stories are concerned, they’ll all be published as either novellas or novelettes, which will all be bundled together as single author anthologies following specific themes. I like the idea of having a huge backlist of shorter fiction from which readers can pick and choose (I sound like iTunes, don’t I, but that’s the idea) what they’d like to read without the burden of being stuck with other stories they don’t care for – or books that are too long for them, considering my writing style, which might not sit well with some readers. But if they want collections either in e-book or print, they also have that option.
I may be writing series novellas, but that’ll depend on how well the stories do with readers, i.e., if there’s enough of an audience to justify sequels. By and large, though, the shorter stories will all be linked thematically. Original fairy tales, ghost stories, and boarding school fantasy stories are lined up so far. More themes will pop up as I go along, but the beauty of writing these shorter pieces is the fact that I can also alternate between them and not get bogged down so much from writing in the same genre for too long, the same way I get burned out on marathon writing that’s required by novels.
Today I finally started writing the first novella (the story’s too elaborate for a novelette but not enough for a novel), which I’ve yet to title. It isn’t Helleville, and I did this to shock my system into moving again after several days of lazing about and resisting the idea of creating something. On that writing day that I wasted, I was really hell-bent on working on Helleville, but I couldn’t get a single word written. I figured then that, having written two contemporary novels in a row, I was just burned out on the genre. Now that I think about it some more, it could very well have been a combination of genre and story length in addition to my indecision.
And I’m glad I held off and talked to my publisher and that other writer. Maybe I just needed that bit of reassurance from people in the know after having devoted four years straight to nothing but novels. Letting go is always a hard thing for me; separation anxiety tends to hit me hard, even though the logic of the situation is so glaringly obvious. At any rate, I’m ready for it now, and I look forward to exploring uncharted territory.