Sometimes I’m so busy trying to get my writing done, I forget to take a minute and stop and let you know how things are going. I thought I would do another update post, since you folks seem to appreciate them.
The last time I wrote one of these, I was working on writing The Ecumenopolis (Psychic State # 4). At that point, I was about a quarter finished. I’m happy to say that I just finished the first draft.
Just a few days ago, I thought I’d be telling you folks in this update that I was almost finished. I had a decent amount left to write last week, but I also had everything laid out and outlined — and I blitzed like crazy on the ending. Endings are typically easiest for me to write. Beginnings are average difficulty but can be forced and fixed later, and I find middles challenging.
Endings though? Endings tend to go rather quickly.
When I start writing a novel, I always know how it ends. As I write a book, I’m always shooting towards something — a solution, a twist, a reveal, a further development of character arc, etc.
The middle is where all the difficult choices come in, aside from certain obstacles that are implied by the difference between where things start and where things end. The more books I write, the more comfortable I’m getting with middles. I’m hoping at a certain point that it won’t be so bad. But when I first started writing novels, I had a problem where I always wrote — and outlined — quite a bit short of the length I was trying to reach. (Some writers have the opposite problem and write far too much and have to cut it back.) It’s getting better over time. Maybe one day it won’t be a problem at all. It’s getting to be a progressively smaller problem, which is a good sign.
Is Writing a Good Outlet for Extroverts Who Would Otherwise Overwhelm Introverts?
Anyway, I had previously suspected I would finish writing this book sometime this week — or perhaps next. But I wasn’t sure. My partner hasn’t taken any time off since the spring, and he has some coming up, so I’ll likely prioritize hanging out with him as much as I can. But as I’ve mentioned before, he has a lot of hobbies and interests himself — and is an introvert — so if he wanted more alone time, I imagined I’d have plenty of time to write (turns out I didn’t need it for this particular project, but I’ll have it for the next one).
I’ve been a writer since well before I met him — dating back to third grade, when my strangely enthusiastic teacher Mrs. Bagley singled me out as a good creative writer and told me I would be an author one day. The stereotype is that all writers are introverts. But I have to say that being a writer really does come in handy when you’re an extrovert (which I am) trying not to overwhelm an introvert. Since the vast majority of my close relationships have been with introverts, part of me wonders if I would have developed it simply as a coping mechanism.
This was especially true in the days before the ubiquity of things like chatting and texting — which is a weird hybrid of talking and writing. A little of both but not really fully either.
What’s Next After The Ecumenopolis: Psychic Salvation or Boomsdale?
As far as my writing schedule, I will honor a time-honored tradition and take a week off book-writing now that I’m finished The Ecumenopolis. (As always, I’ll write blog posts, freelance articles, and other miscellaneous writing that I also do. I wear many hats professionally.)
And then after that week is up, I’ll switch to working on the next manuscript. What’s interesting is that I have options for what that next book will be this time around.
Option 1 is to start writing Psychic State Book #5 immediately. It is called Psychic Salvation. As the series progresses, it’s getting harder to talk about the books without giving away major spoilers — but in general terms, Psychic Salvation has the team investigating terrorist incidents that threaten to start a holy war at the same time they’re looking into a suspicious murder on the set of a reality TV show. New to the PsyOps team are Volcan Wolf — an enthusiast of all things psychic with no discernible psychic powers who seems to have cheated his way into the Department of Psychic Operations — and Farrah Ward, a precognitionist forced to work as a Connections agent due to staff shortages. In this book, we also learn significantly more about shapeshifter Change (the only character who is in every Psychic State book) — his metabolism, physical composition, likes and dislikes (do shapeshifters like sunsets and long walks on the beach?), as well as empath Karen’s emotional avatar friends — what they are really, where they come from, etc.
Option 2 is to start writing Boomsdale. What’s Boomsdale? It’s a book in a completely different setting, an isolated community of teenaged wizards and their mothers. Yes, only mothers. No one in Boomsdale has a living father. (Why this is the case is a very long story indeed and an integral part of the community’s history.) After I had a strangely vivid dream about the first scene, I wrote the beginning of the book and have a detailed outline for it. I keep writing the book by accident, frankly. It’s like this bratty little kid that won’t leave me alone. I just keep thinking about it. Going in, I’m not sure whether it’s going to be a standalone or another series. My current plan for the ending leaves me the option of either. It clearly resolves, but there’s plenty of room for future character development arcs, which would imply sequels. At this point, I just know this darn book won’t leave me alone.
I Am So Torn — Pros & Cons
Frankly, I’m torn as to which project to pivot to. On one hand, I have excellent momentum on the Psychic State books — and I wouldn’t want to jeopardize that by breaking the rhythm. This is particularly the case because the first five books in the series function like a five-act play (I used to be a playwright). So most of the major questions raised in the early books are resolved by Book 5. And then the second quintet (yes, there will be another five books — I have their titles, rough plots, and very rough outlines) explores new questions and dives even more deeply into this strange world. Given all of this, there’s a strong case for ignoring Boomsdale for a bit longer and focusing on Salvation.
On the other hand, I’m about to have three finished manuscripts at my editor (in 30 days, I’ll spend a week and edit The Ecumenopolis into its draft 2 form, which then goes to my editor; I wait a month so I can have fresh eyes for the edit). I have a good lead on the Psychic State series. So I do have the lead time to pursue a standalone/separate series — while being able to provide y’all a lot of material that’s already been written but is in the process of being polished. Further, I’m not sure if changing gears will ruin my momentum on Psychic State — or if working on a different project will be helpful and help keep me from burning out.
It probably won’t make a huge difference at the end of the day. Since I’ve gotten a lot better at outlining, I’m finding it’s much quicker to write a novel than it used to be. My last two books took me 2-3 months to write. I know some people do write a lot faster than this (some out of the outlining gurus say a book takes them about 3 weeks), but for me this is quite brisk and a big improvement over the two years it took me to write my first novel Psychic City (although to be fair to me, I wasn’t just writing — I had to build an entire world, flesh out a large cast of characters, and learn how to properly structure a novel, and all of that took a lot of time).
The Stress of Approach-Approach Conflicts that Feel like Approach-Avoidance
Anyway, it feels like a huge decision, which project to hit next. But it probably isn’t.
This sort of decision is known as an approach-approach conflict in Kurt Lewin’s model. Basically, an approach-approach conflict is a choice between two alternatives that are both appealing. The other two types are avoidance-avoidance (where you pick between two unappealing outcomes) and approach-avoidance (in which the options have both upsides and downsides and neither seems purely appealing).
Approach-approach conflicts are certainly less stressful than avoidance-avoidance ones. But I’ve found that my approach-approach conflicts feel a lot more like approach-avoidance (in which the options have both upsides and downsides and neither seems purely appealing).
Anyway, will it be Boomsdale or will it be Psychic Salvation next? I guess we’ll see — both what I pick and what (if any) the impact will be.
Let me know if you have a preference — or any ideas on how I could choose between them.
There’s also the option of writing both at the same time. I do know some writers who swear by this approach, say it helps them stay refreshed and not get burned out on a project. However, I know other writers who say that it ends up taking much longer to write that, and they also have difficulty with mixing up the books (since different books are set in different worlds, use different writing styles, etc.).
That’s where things stand! And thank you for all the kind words about Psychic City. I am just as eager as you are for the sequel — Psychic Inferno — to come out. As it stands now re: the editing and publication process, it’s looking like the beginning of 2021. The last estimate is probably February, but I’ll have more information as we get closer to the release date.
As always a huge thank you to anyone who has picked up copies of my books, left honest ratings/reviews (whether glowing and/or critical), or spread the word in any other way. It is amazing and so appreciated.
Okay, back to writing with me.