Current Status: Editing
The Burdened Boy
Drawchilde: Book I
A Stefani Wilder Novel
complete at 94,000 words
The General's Dragon
Drawchilde: Book III
200,000 of 200,000 words
A Stefani Wilder Novel
A Novella of Bydaira
1,400 of 32,000 words
Demigods (working title)
standalone fantasy novel
14,000 of 250,000 words
The Panther's Girl
Drawchilde: Book II
complete at 200,000 words
About ten years ago, I read On Writing by Stephen King. At the time I'd actually read very little of his fiction. But I heard about the book and got pretty interested in the way he talked about writing. I picked it up and read the whole thing in less than a day. It completely changed the way I perceived myself as a writer.
I thought I'd written a lot at that point. But as he put it so succinctly, "The first million words are practice."
Naturally, the first thing I did upon reading that was create a spreadsheet to count up my words. Even including every scrap of writing I could find, I had not written a million words. Not even close. I was 26. I'd done a degree in English with an emphasis on creative writing but suddenly I understood I had a long way to go before I was done being a rookie.
It was a freeing realization. At the time I was mired in endless revisions and querying a book I'd been working on for years. I put that aside and set out to just write. I wrote and rewrote a number of new novels in different genres. When my total word count was up to about 1.5 million, I began to play with publishing. I started with an experimental novel that is no longer in print. After that came my Bydaira novellas. Then came my Stefani Wilder project.
What I've discovered is that sharing my work is much harder for me than creating it. Despite good feedback, good reviews, a slowly growing base of loyal fans, and modest sales, I go through phases where I just have no energy for the publishing part of this whole venture. The part I love is the writing. So I tend to hide in that process when the other aspects of being an author start to feel fatiguing.
Raw output became how I measured my productivity. My rough lifetime word count is now around 2.8 million. Which means at this moment in time, I have 13 full-length, complete novels sitting on my hard drive. They all need rewriting and editing, but not that much. At least half of them could be ready for an editor with just a couple weeks of effort from me. Somehow, though, I always find an excuse not to take that step.
Over the last many years, I've read a lot of Seth Godin's work. His blog, in particular, is a daily breath of fresh air on an internet obsessed with all the wrong things. His podcast is great too. In a recent episode, he told his listeners to stop hoarding. He says this in one way or another all the time. But up until now, I let the message slide by unnoticed.
That day, his words felt very on point to me. I've done all this work. Why haven't I shared it yet?
Even before hearing that episode, I'd been thinking of making this year different. So now my tentative goal is to make 2019 about finishing and releasing some of this backlog. In an ideal world, this would mean getting three of my Laeronyll novels rewritten, the third finished, and the first one fully edited and published by the end of the year. Next year, I'll write the fourth (and last in the series), then release the rest of the series on a schedule of 1-2 a year. By the time I'm done, this will be over 900,000 words of epic fantasy in the hands of my readers.
I'll admit it, though. This is hard. Everything I've published up until this point was in the spirit of learning, trying out weird things, or sort of having a lark. The 13 novels I haven't published are different. They're my best work. They are where the bulk of my creative energy has been going for almost a decade.
It's hard to think of letting them go. But I'm going go try to leap.
We'll see if I make it.
Last year, one of my goals was to write an average of 1,000 words a day. I decided to shoot for that again this year and it really wasn't a problem. My current total as things stand is 388,000 words for the year. That's an average of 1180 a day. And it's still November.
So basically I could not write another word and still succeed. Which means it's been a big year as far as raw output goes. Here's what those words break down to in terms of work and time:
That brings me up to the present. At the beginning of November, I was just a teeny bit shy of my goal for the year. And I really felt like I needed to get moving on my Bydaira novellas again. I wrote two of them a while ago that I never published because I realized they had gotten too big and were infringing on the eventual story I will someday tell with three full length novels set in that world. So those never saw the light of day.
My fantasy focus since then has been on a couple standalone projects and my other epic world, Laeronyll. I've now got complete drafts of three books set in that world. Two of those are legit epic (over 200,000 words). The third is normal novel length.
Anyway, all that output has left me feeling a bit tired. I decided to hop on NaNoWriMo to motivate me to write my Bydaira novella. I did that, and then I realized I would need to either write a second novella or work on something else to hit the 50k goal for the month. Never being one who can set a goal and then discard it but also not feeling totally up for a second novella, I cast about for ideas.
Like most writers, I have notes. I have copious notes on stories I have written or am writing. I also have loads and loads of notes for projects I have not yet even started. A week or so ago, I went back through my notes and found a pretty fully fleshed out world I'd totally forgotten about. It doesn't have a name. It doesn't have more than a very rough outline of a plot. But it's fun, it's totally different from what I've been focusing on this entire year, and, best of a all, it's a clean slate.
So I dove in. I'm shooting for one giant novel to tell this entire massive story. I do not think I'll do it all in one sitting, rather I'll return to it on and off between other projects. It's going to be a bit different. It's a first-person narrative written by someone who is not human. I'm shooting for a feel that's kinda like Remains of the Day meets Sherlock Holmes set in somewhere kinda like ancient Rome but with a bit of Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell thrown in.
Will it be any good? I have no idea. Will I even finish it? Hard to say.
But I have realized something the last few years as I have steadily inched my way towards writing for an audience instead of just writing for myself. Having readers is great, but readers come with expectations. I have committed to one Tipped Z novel a year as long as people continue to read and enjoy those, but the fantasy is where my heart truly lies. The epic style stuff I love working on, though, truly takes an epic investment of focus, organization, and effort to produce. I've been more strategic and focused this year than ever before.
Turns out, that's tiring! So I've decided it's almost important to build in projects like this, leaving room for play and experimentation and total freedom. You know, all that glorious stuff that made me fall in love with writing fantasy in the first place.
Next year, Vaquera's Haven will come out in February. (It's actually available for pre-order now.) I'm also really really hoping to get my next Bydaira novella trilogy finished and out.
But I've been on the fence with the Laeronyll work. I keep waffling back and forth on whether to publish it via Brown Wing Press or pursue a deal with a large publishing company. My leaning is inching steadily towards the first option, but a part of me can't help but feel attracted to the thought of a trad deal and the prestige that would go with that.
Still, there are significant downsides to going that route, not the least being how slow the industry moves. If I tried to do it that, it would be a long, long time before readers get their hands on those stories. And that, of course, is assuming someone actually wants to buy the work.
So, I don't know. Part of me just like to do things my own way. So we'll see. It's all still a giant experiment.
Thank you all for reading, though. It's a funny feeling—knowing there are people out there looking forward to my next release. It does a lot to keep me motivated.
It's drawing close to end of another year, and it's been a pretty good one. Unfortunately, despite the fact that I literally build websites for a living, I've been having blog problems. This has resulted in my last several posts never actually making it out into the world. Writing a post only for it to be immediately lost is maddening, and I've not had the wherewithal to rewrite the lost content.
What I have done is build myself a new blog. And this one is hoping to straddle the divide between my pen names. Right now I have work out as both Robin Stephen and Stefani Wilder. Readers want updates. But maintaining one blog is hard enough. Multiples seems impossible.
So, for now, this is where I'm going to post all the updates for both names. And hopefully I'll be able to start showing up with news more often.
I'm getting close to finishing a project that has morphed from a novella set in the same world as Drawchilde (my 200k epic fantasy novel that is complete, but not yet out) into a fairly chunky novel all in its own right. A few years ago, I shifted my focus to shorter works, hoping to build my world and readership faster by getting a selection of slender books out into the world. This has worked and was a good move, as projects on the scale of Drawchilde are the labor of years or even decades rather than months. Towards the end of the year last year I even had plans to go shorter, and publish a series of Kindle stories that would try to emulate the pace and feel of a TV series. This was going to be set in the world of Bydaira, in a place called Serpent's Crook.
And right about the time I made that decision, I started finding it hard to get my words in. Finally I gave up, pivoted in a totally unexpected direction, and wrote a mystery novel. (Since obviously what I need most as an author is a whole new genre to experiment with.) Then I took a brief break for the holidays, and now I'm back in the world of Drawchilde, which is the work and world closest to my heart in many respects. And I'm loving it. In turning Iavan and the Deodin into full-blown novel, I'm finding I have more room to play, space to delve into characters, time to digress into backstory.
The thing about the novellas that makes them a challenge is they have to be tight, tight, tight. Every scene has to move the story with the fewest words possible. You can write them fast. But for me, at least, they require a lot more planning, cutting, and distilling. They are well worth writing. I learn from them and they're fun in their own way. But I have to be in the right frame of mind to take them on.
So at the moment I'm 85,000 words into this story that was supposed to be about 30,000 total. I might still have another 30,000 to go before all is said and done.
After that, though, shorter is going to happen sooner or later. I still have six more Bydaria novellas I need to write.
I'm not totally sure how much I usually write in any given year. Until quite recently, I never kept track of total output. I'm not sure what gave me the idea, but a year ago in November I started filling in a spreadsheet with each day's word count. At some point this year I decided it would be neat to finish the year with a daily average of 1000 words a day. So here's how that ended up looking.
My output is pretty consistent when I'm writing. But you can see the chunks when I'm not focused on new words, but rather on editing or publishing. My biggest day was just a tad shy of 5k.
So, all in all, I'm satisfied with the year. I always feel like I could/should write more. I have so many projects and they never seem to move quickly enough. Still, now that I know how many words I wrote in 2017, I can use that to inform by goals for 2018.
This year, for the first time in over a decade, I participated in NaNoWriMo. It's a large event in the writing community, and the goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days. My hope was to finish my new standalone fantasy novel, Well of Trades. While I did win NaNoWriMo with a final word count of 57,000 words, I had more work to do. My novel was plenty long enough, but it wasn't done:
I had intended for this novel to be short and sweet and wrap up at about 70,000 words. But that was not to be. I knew from my outline when I finished NaNo that I had 13,000 words or so still to go. My husband's birthday is in the first week of December. He's my first reader, and was excited to have a brand new story to kick off his new year. So I made that my new goal, which was actually far more of push than NaNoWriMo itself. I used this nifty little website called Pacemaker to give myself a motivation chart, and cranked out 3-4k words a day, finishing with a whole day to spare:
So that's done, and it feels good. But since I've been on a crazy writing binge, I figure I might as well keep it up. With my Brinlin series all finished and launched, I'm ready to start the third trilogy in my Bydaira project. I've begun Wyl Maze (working title) a few days ago, and I'm hoping to finish it by the time we kick off our holiday travels on the 18th. We'll see how that goes.