Welcome to my worlds!

I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Choosing What Novel to Write Next: Part One

Last Sunday night, I emailed my latest revision of Bad Wizard to Antimatter Press. This was a post editorial draft for the high level, story content changes. I probably cut about 10,000 words of old stuff and added about as much new stuff. There was other material I shifted around, and the story now has a prologue and epilogue. In the earlier draft, I had a scene, where Dorothy Gale first tries on the silver slippers five years after she's returned from Oz and uses them to travel Paris. This happened in flashback and really messed up the flow of the story around it. On the other hand, I couldn't find a good place for Dorothy to just tell her story first hand, at least not this particular element of it. Changing it to an epilogue solved a second structural problem for the novel. In earlier drafts, the book doesn't open in Dorothy's POV. There are good things and bad things about this earlier choice, and hopefully the epilogue mitigates the bad and elevates the good. 

The biggest bad part of not starting in her POV was that it might lead some readers to think that the novel was going to be about a completely different character. The biggest good part was that when Dorothy does appear, the reader should be intrigued about her identity, piecing it together from visual clues. But, those clues would have been obvious to someone familiar with the book, not someone who only knew of Oz from the movie, where the slippers are ruby and Dorothy hasn't been kissed on the forehead by the Witch of the North, leaving a visible mark. Now, there won't be a mystery about who Dorothy is, so the reader can instead focus on the mystery of what she'd doing and why she'd doing it, a mystery that pays off in the following chapter. 

There will still be one more draft of the novel, following line editing, then of course there will be galleys. But, when I arrived home from work Monday and sat down at my computer, I had the strangest sensation. For the first time since I turned in Dragonseed almost six years ago, I don't have a next novel lined up to work on, nor am I immediately needing to plunge into revisions of an already drafted novel. (Yet. I will be revising Cut Up Girl eventually, but it's not urgent, no deadline.)

The sensation is both a great relief and more than a little unsettling. 

The relief is easy enough to understand. It's late spring. If I'm not stuck in front of a computer, I can be out hiking or biking or-dare I dream?-fishing. In a more sedentary mode, maybe I can catch up on some of the movies I've missed in the last couple of years. People get vacations from other jobs. Why should writing be an exception? 

It's a little unsettling because, writing is more than just a job for me. It's built into my structure, it's what I think about constantly, it's part of my identity. If I didn't write, I don't have any idea how I would know myself. Who am I if I'm not the person typing away at stories in the evening? Writing is my drug of choice. It takes me away from the world, alters my mind and mood, makes me neglect important stuff, but also gives me highs I can never fully explain to anyone else. If I go too long without writing, I get withdrawal symptoms. My real fear is... what if I got through the withdrawal, came out the other side free of my need to write, free of my dependence on the habit? I spend my days pondering "what ifs." This is a "what if" I'm terrified of contemplating too deeply. 

So, I need a novel to write. In the next few days, I'll talk about my candidate novels, and go through the pros and cons of each, and try to document my process for making a decision. 


nrlymrtl said...

Hooray for Bad Wizard! I have been looking forward to seeing this one published.

And it will be interesting to see your process for choosing what to write next. I wonder how much your 'time off' will affect your choices.

James Maxey said...

Thanks! For one thing, my 'time off' is giving me time to write my blog!

Suzanne Warr said...

I'm fascinated that you think of writing as a drug of choice. I can relate to that, but I think for me writing is more a part of how I take care of myself. So, in the same way that maybe I could technically go without bathing or brushing my teeth, I'm not likely to short of the zombie apocalypse 'cause that's just gross. Not to mention, something I couldn't stomach in myself for long. :)

James Maxey said...

Well, drugs don't have to be detrimental. Claritin and levoxyl have certainly improved my physical health. Writing is a drug in that it produces endorphins (maybe? Euphoria, definitely, but I suppose I don't know if actual endorphins are in play). Writing helps me manage stress, helps me maintain a distance from life's more frustrating events, and helps me develop empathy and patience. The unpleasant side effects are that I spend too much time sitting in a chair staring at a computer, and too much time disconnected from real life. My body is often places where my mind doesn't bother to show up, since it's off in bookland.