Getting back on the bicycle

Over this summer, in between the unavoidable interruptions of Real Life, I had begun to wonder if I was really going to write this book or if I would simply spend the rest of my life taking notes about Renaissance Italy and the Turkey of Mehmed II. Then things began to fall into place. The sketchy outline turned into my usual pre-writing document, twenty-odd pages telling a story with bits of dialogue and action included. And then, a month ago, the words started coming into my head. I took a deep breath and started writing.

It is an incredible relief to find that the writing muscles are still there. They are, perhaps, not as strong as they used to be. 2000 words used to be a normal daily average; now it feels more like a tremendous achievement. I used to be able to push past time-sucking interruptions like doctors’ appointments; now those days mean something like 500 words at best. Still, a month after beginning the actual writing of Book of Secrets, I’m 35,000 words into the story, and probably about a third of the way through.

By the standards of writing-as-a-business, this book is probably a mistake. I may have a smallish audience for lightweight urban fantasy. Historical novels? Not so much. I don’t even have a beta reader, because the friend who usually looks over my first drafts won’t read anything in this genre. It’s been something like twenty years since I last wrote a long historical novel, and that one had all the impact of a rose petal falling into the Grand Canyon. I suppose I “ought” to be whipping out two or three more urban fantasies.

I’ve never been good at doing what “ought” to advance my career, and at almost 75, I really don’t see the point in giving up what I want to write in favor of what I think can sell. I’m staying on this bicycle. Next stop, Venice, and after that, Istanbul.

20 comments

  1. Write what you want to. Otherwise, it won’t be written (by anyone else). If you only write-to-market, it becomes a job like anything else, and that can be soul-sucking, and if you don’t write your labors of love, it can sour what you force yourself to do instead.

    If you need an excuse, look at it as diversification of your complete market — slow to grow another lane, perhaps, but larger in potential than simply staying in your existing lane. That lane can be fickle anyway, in the long term, as fashions change, so I think projects of love should definitely be pursued.

  2. I can tell you that you have an audience of at least one here. I’m looking forward to it being done. Heck, if you’re serious about not having a beta reader, I volunteer!

    1. Thank you, that would be great! I don’t think I’ll have a completed draft until January; may I check back with you then?

  3. You wrote Flameweaver, decades back, didn’t you? I’d read a historical from you. I do read historicals anyway, although i haven’t enjoyed most of what gets attention these days. (No, I do not like Hilary Mantel’s writing, sorry. my taste runs more to Gillian Bradshaw and D. Dunnett) Anyway, I guess I’m volunteering for as a beta reader if you want one in the future for this.

    1. That would be wonderful! We seem to have similar tastes in historical novels; I’ve practically memorized Gillian Bradshaw’s books and Dunnett’s Lymond series. May I get back to you when this first draft is done? (It won’t be any time real soon.)

  4. Too late to jump on the beta bandwagon, darn it. Keep us posted because I think you are finding that there’s a heckin strong cross link between historical fiction fans and fantasy fans. Which is not that surprising when you think about it. And Turkey. Turkey is exotic.

  5. Zsuzsa, elainthomp, 60guilders, would you please send your email addresses to me at margaretball7 at gmail dot com
    so I can get in touch with you when I actually have a complete manuscript?

  6. I thought the first Merchant book would be a bit of a dud. Fantasy featuring a middle-aged protagonist without magic? No mythical creatures? Boy was I surprised! It turns out they hit the same chord as Nathan Lowell’s sic-fi series about a merchant spaceman. So who knows what your historical fiction might do? 🙂

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