The clarion call of side projects

Shortly after I started the long process of writing of writing Paragon of Water, a few snags arose. Cover art needed to come slower. Plot ambiguity stalled the writing. And all the while, some new concepts for something short, easy, and stand-alone kept brewing in the back of my mind, making it that much harder to keep going.

Of course, burnout hit shortly after that, so then there was no writing happening at all (still working on getting back into the swing of it…) but through it all, I found myself craving work on that side project instead.

Why do we do that, anyway? I guess it has something to do with what I typically write. That’s how Westkings Heist came along, too. In between the Snakesblood books, which were twisty and complicated with lots of characters to keep straight, I felt so fried that I needed something short and sweet to finish between them. So I wrote those heist novellas. Although the last one is considered a full novel at 50k words, it was still substantially easier than the 100k+ word books I’d been juggling, and having just a single point-of-view character and a single plot thread for each story was refreshingly simple. Since I was doing the work on Westkings Heist between and around bigger books, they were still slow to get done, but they felt so easy, and they helped refresh my brain when I got stuck on the bigger projects.

So maybe I should have learned from that. I had several big releases in a row: Serpent’s Crown followed by Serpent’s Blood, finishing the Snakesblood Saga. Then immediately after, Spectrum Blade–which is the longest book I’ve ever published–and Paragon of Fire. Four epic fantasies in a row was possibly my max… or maybe even too much. Maybe that was why I found myself wanting something else, coming up with a dozen ideas for new stories, things I could jot down and add to my ever-growing list of books to write. I think we’re at 14 right now. If I keep up the current apparent pace of two to three books a year, it’ll be seven years before I finish the stuff I already have planned, and that’s rough.

Don’t get me wrong, being busy for that long is great. Having a long-term plan and a goal set in the future is great. But when I look at the length of time it takes me to complete things, it isn’t motivating to dangle the carrot of what I really want to be working on at the end of that pipeline. Instead, it becomes crushing. Seven years is too long to wait, and that, in turn, creates a negativity spiral. If only I could write faster.  Maybe if I gave up doing x, y, or z, I’d be able to have more time to write.  If I learned how to write using this method, or that method, or outlined better, or…

It goes on and on, and as I sit and reflect on it while having my morning tea, I wonder if maybe it’s a sign I should be leaning more into the fluidity of scheduling that comes with being my own boss. I try to focus on one project at a time, because I feel like that gets things done faster. But maybe having something on the side, something short and easy, like Westkings Heist was, would be beneficial. Something to bounce to when I’m stuck. Because it’s not just a distraction if it becomes a reward and is something that gets pushed out sooner, rather than later, right? Or am I deluding myself?

I don’t know. I guess no matter what, writing is a continually evolving process. Even as I work on my 21st book, I’m still learning new things about my process, and that process never seems to stay the same for long.

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