About four years ago, I made two posts that cataloged the progress on various writing projects that were either in progress, stalled out, or something else. Since it’s been a long time since I’ve taken inventory, I decided to do that again, but a little more abbreviated.
Currently on my website, Glimwarden has thirteen chapters published, and another five unpublished. I put some token work into this one every once in a while, often to refine and revise the unpublished chapters. In original conception, it was ten books long, of which what’s published is only halfway through the first book. Currently, my plan is to get it to a good ending place once Worth the Candle is done, then write sequels for it rather than making it into the singular epic that it was always planned to be. I’m kind of unsure about that; it somewhat depends on what Patreon looks like once Worth the Candle ends, and whether I’m going to try to make the transition to traditional publishing.
Currently more than 600,000 words, making it longer than War and Peace. It’s longer than I’d planned for it to be, and represents the bulk of the last year’s writing output. People like it, and I don’t think it’s overstayed its welcome. I’d be very surprised if I was still writing it in a year’s time.
This was National Novel Writing Month 2013, which tells you something about how long this one has been sitting on the shelf. It’s at 95,000 words, with a fair amount more to go in order to craft it into the story that I think it wants to be. If I do decide to try traditional publishing, I think that it will probably be with this story, since it’s close to being first-draft complete, and there’s a lot that I like about it, especially as relates to how we deal with becoming ourselves. Most of what’s been done with it in the four years since I wrote about it has been in rewriting and editing, but not all that much of it.
I had the unfortunate realization late into this project that doing a “fish out of water” story that goes from one unfamiliar culture to another is actually pretty hard. Currently, the story exists as a 45,000 word original draft, and another 25,000 word rewrite that’s basically from scratch (though it follows much of the same action). I’m also a little concerned that the plot is too close to Altered Carbon, namely in that there’s a detective brought back from the past into an unfamiliar body, but I’m not so concerned that it would actually stop me.
First draft is done. I wish that I hadn’t put it online, since that would greatly improve my ability to market it to an agent or publisher. It’s also unlikely to move out of first draft for that very reason. I like the first draft, but it’s sitting at an uncomfortable point where I don’t really want people to see it unfinished, don’t want to piss people off by pulling it, and don’t have all that much incentive to finish up and rerelease it.
That’s a work-in-progress title that will never go on the final work. The story is essentially about an outside going into a battle school for the elites. I did a whole lot of worldbuilding for this one that I’m pretty happy with, which means that the writing and character work tends to come a bit easier. At the current moment, it’s sitting at 15,000 words, which isn’t too much, but it’s also pretty well outlined. As a whole, it’s meant to follow the Harry Potter structure of one book per school year, with three years in total, though the second two years aren’t as well fleshed out.
I wrote and self-published a novella, The Case of the Sleeping Beauties, a few years back, which was no one’s favorite thing. For no particular reason, I started writing a sequel novella, with the intent that it would be a bit longer, develop the characters a bit more, and set up for a third novella, which would be of about the right length that the three could all be packaged together as a proper book, especially since the third novella was meant to tie together some loose ends of the first two. Sitting at 10,000 words, which isn’t really much … at my current writing speed, I figure I could knock out the second and third novellas in two months, but that would require two months to write and edit, which I don’t have, and as said, no one really loved the first.
I had high hopes for this short story when I was writing it, but it sort of petered out right before the finish line. Literally the only thing that it needs, other than to be retitled and edited, is for the final two scenes to be written. It is, in short, about a young girl with magic powers who does what must be done because no one else will do it … and I don’t know, I’ve reread it, but and there are things that I really do like about it, but the magic system was a metaphor for online communities, and it doesn’t actually hit hard enough (or true enough) on that front. It’s approximately 10,000 words, with another 2,000 needed to finish, doable in a day if I can find the will to do it.
Another project that didn’t really make it much past 10,000 words. It was meant to be a riff on Harry Potter, with wizards that keep themselves secret, but focused largely on that secrecy, the veil between the worlds, and the people who enforce it. I really like the general idea, but I’m not so sure that I like my execution of it. The protagonists are an unserious man who does his job without putting much thought into it until he’s forced to confront the injustice, and a very serious woman who has to come to terms with her role in maintaining the status quo. I don’t know, I’ll probably never finish this one, since it’s a long way from the finish line.
Sitting at 56,000, which means that I must have stalled out shortly after writing about how I was being very active in writing it. It’s a fantasy story that follows two childhood friends, one with a magical gift, the other without, as they grow up and eventually take part in changing the world. In some ways, it’s a fantasy racism story … but that’s not quite right, I guess, since it’s also a proxy for class. I really like the idea of two people following alternate-but-connecting paths which illuminate opposite ends of their society, and especially the premise that the less-advantaged one takes the high road while the more-advantaged takes the low road. I don’t know, there’s some work to be done in fleshing out their teenage years, which means going back and adding things to parts that are already written, always a difficult task. There’s also the last third to write, which doesn’t quite have the right shape in my head — ideally, there’s a reconciliation between the two friends, and a monumental shift in their society. I have a hard time remembering that I meant this to be three interlocking shorts that spanned three generations.
I forgot about this one until I started looking back at my files. The basic premise is that the events of H.G. Wells War of the Worlds happened because creatures from an alternate Earth arrived, rather than Martians, this fact is only discovered decades later, then kept tightly under wraps as the British government works in secret to develop world-hopping technology. Honestly, the first 6,000/10,000 words written are all I really had interest in, since they make some observations and retcons to the original that I found pleasing. All the build up is there for the first world hop, but the eventual plan was that it would lead to hundreds of alternate Earths in various alliances with each other, and the home world of the protagonist being special because it was the only one that was attacked by “Martians” … but I didn’t find that nearly as compelling.
14,000 words. I have no idea where I was actually going with this one. It was in part about the difficulty of duty towards an institution that you didn’t believe in, featuring a fantasy world with authoritarian wizards and magic that behaved very much like programming. If I was doing psychoanalysis, I would say that I was probably writing about my fatigue towards software engineering; the main character has essentially quit his job and is left loose and flapping in the wind, hunted by another wizard. If I think about the story like that, it kind of makes me want to write it, since it would just be various layers of metaphor and symbolism for working at a job you don’t like. That doesn’t seem terribly marketable though.
You know, I had intended this to be exhaustive, but holy moly there are a ton of projects that have fallen by the wayside, and for too many of them, I haven’t actually given up hope, even if I probably should have. Counting everything over 10,000 words, there are another eight projects, and if I keep making this list, it’s going to depress me, even if I think it’s good to look back on past stall-outs and failures to see why they happened and remind myself that I’m still trying to avoid those mistakes.
State of Writing, 2018