So, this is the official announcement. I did it, the second draft of Dark Mirror is finished. It’s a lot shorter than I expected. And by a lot, I mean it’s 73,264 words, while I had thought it would be at least 100k. I didn’t know I could write a whole story in less than 100k.
For years I’ve known that I tend to, shall we say, over-write a bit on my stories, which tends to bloat word counts beyond what they should be. This time I tried something different. I didn’t describe everything down to the last fold of cloth or breath. It finally occurred to me that it might be unnecessary. The average reader has a fairly vivid imagination and so I can leave some of the basic stuff to that imagination. Describing just what was significant or different from normal is a new thing for me, but somewhat liberating. We’ll have to see what my test readers say when I get this to them. That said, it gave me more room to write the story. As much as I’d like to just let a story run as many words as it needs, I never stop being aware that I would like to sell my stories at some point, that this is a business and with that comes certain expectations.
I’m still pondering how I want to go about publishing this, when it’s ready at least, and I’m very torn. Part of me very much wants to go with traditional publishing, for the support system you’re supposed to get, for the physical object you eventually get, the broader distribution, all that. And (this is going to sound perhaps really bad) for that stamp of approval that is implied with traditional publishing, that unspoken message to potential readers that it can’t be that bad because an agent and editor(s) have read through it already and were willing to spend money to bring it to you. And then there’s the costs I don’t have to spend money for up front (money I don’t really have at the moment, to be honest). But it’s a very uphill battle for someone entirely unpublished for me, and I’m not long on confidence generally. In fact, I rarely give myself the credit that some of my friends argue I deserve.
There is a definite historical stigma to self-publishing. I find it in my own attitude, even. In my opinion, it’s lessening now in this the age of e-publication, but I think it’s still there to at least some extent. Perhaps it is because you do find plenty of books out there among the self-published that were written by someone clearly delusional about the level of their own talents. You know the ones I’m talking about, the ones that come across as someone’s first draft, with spelling and grammar errors and confused narrative. And I don’t want to be mistaken for one of those, but I’m aware that there’s a growing tide of those who write very well jumping on this train.
There are several advantages that are definitely starting to make the traditional publishing route look less attractive. The biggest is control. I would have control over my work, how long it’s available, where and at what price. I decide how often I publish a new book. I can have the cover I want. It would happen sooner than trying to fight that uphill battle of traditional publishing. And more of the money is mine (so is the financial risk, but nothing worth doing is without risk), with fewer people being paid a percentage of the book’s sales. I have to agree with Dean Wesley Smith on this. He’s talked about it in his blog before. Actually, he talks about a lot of important business stuff in his blog. But the salient point here is that I did the work of writing this, inventing it in the first place in fact, spent my time and effort to make it a reality. They did their job once. They don’t keep working on the book after it’s published in some cases. Why should they get a percentage paid to them for however long the book is available? If I’m willing to learn that business side and find people to do the work for a flat fee, to spend the time dealing with the business end of things, there’s no reason I shouldn’t do it that way. Actually, the more I write this post, the more I think I’m going to end up going self-publish, e-publish. I may or may not get rich that way, I may never realize the dream of writing full time, but at least I would get to do it my way. Besides, even in traditional publishing, being able to afford to write full time is unlikely, as I understand it. I think it’s time for me to get down to researching and learning when not actively writing. I have a lot to learn before I get this in people’s hands (e-readers). And I may change my mind on this. It wouldn’t be the first time.
In the meantime, as I go through all of this and think about all of the above, what will I be doing? Digging into another project. I’m more than a little torn on that. I want to work on The Ailing Tree, but I don’t think I’m ready. There’s still a bunch of stuff I’m letting simmer with that one. I want to work on the second book in the Mirrors trilogy, currently going under the working title Possession, while I’m still very much in the vein of that world, and I’m leaning toward that, working on and finishing the trilogy before moving on to another world. I don’t expect major story or world reworking to come out of the feedback process for DM (though you never really know), so I could at least start ordering my notes and working on an outline. I’m also throwing around possible new titles for DM, but not really sure about any of them yet, so I won’t be sharing them at this point.
I’d like to close this post by saying that I’m amazed how much better writing The End feels this time. It might be because this time I didn’t do it knowing I’d have to do significant rewrites, so it really feels like The End. There’s still work to do on it, and I don’t yet know how much, but this time it feels like so much more of an achievement. I like that 🙂