Wednesday, July 15, 2015

A writerly case of Empty Nest Syndrome

So, I've written a trilogy. Virtual Shadows is out now, and the Jane Colt trilogy is done. Wait... what?

There was a time when I thought I might split the third Jane Colt novel into two installments, since I wasn't sure if all the story lines I had in mind would fit into a single book of a reasonable size. I had reason to worry... the first draft turned out to be 157,000 words long. I cut it down to 124,000... that's the power of killing your darlings!

Look at that reasonably sized spine! My editing shears have superpowers.
The Books That Almost Were would have been titled Virtual Expanses and Simulated Shadows. I eventually decided to keep them as one book (smashing the titles together to form Virtual Shadows) for two reasons: the first being that when I tried splitting up the two story lines, there wasn't enough material for either to be its own novel. This was a painful exercise in surgically removing plot points, attempting to outline a new novel using them, searching desperately for additional material to fluff things up, and bashing my head against the wall. And the second was that I felt ready to move on.

It was a really, really weird feeling. From the moment I started scribbling brainstorms for a space adventure in 2011 (out of sheer boredom at the office after I figured out how to make Excel do my job for me), Jane Colt has been a part of my daily life. I was always plotting, writing, brainstorming future books, editing, researching, etc. etc. etc. For years, I couldn't imagine not working on some aspect of that universe. Even had ideas for spinoff novellas and whatnot. But in late 2014, with five other active projects I was in the thick of, something hit me: I wanted to finish something. I had this blank spot on my wall next to the posters for Artificial Absolutes and Synthetic Illusions, and I suddenly couldn't stand it anymore. I needed to fill that empty space, to no longer have my series be incomplete.

My old Facebook cover pic... It's INCOMPLETE *twitch twitch*
I think it's partially just because of who I am. I get immense satisfaction out of getting shit done. It's that feeling when you've completed something you've been working on... whether it's turning in that huge school project, or finally launching that new brand, or going on that trip you've been planning for months. Life is never finished until you're dead (and even then, there will always be threads left dangling), but along the way, you can tie a bow on a few smaller things and just get the feeling of having concluded something. 

So I wrote Virtual Shadows and chose to self-publish it so I'd have ultimate control over my conclusion (though I hired the same team that published the other two... really the only difference was who was paying the bills). And so I'd get it out in time for GenCon this year (by the time I felt my book was ready for an editor's eyes, GenCon was only four months away). The whole time I was working on it, I kept thinking, "I can't wait to be done." Not because I wasn't having fun working on it, but because I wanted the rush of, "Yes! I finished something!"

My current Facebook cover pic... Ah... that's better...

Wellp, I'm there now. Virtual Shadows is formatted and uploaded, and all that's left to do now is the marketing part (which never ends, so I guess I'm not actually done-done). On the one hand, I do get a kick out of being able to say "Hey look! I completed a trilogy!" On the other hand... not having something Jane Colt-related to be writing/plotting/editing is WEIRD. And it's giving me a weird writerly case of Empty Nest Syndrome.

Four years may be nothing in the grand scheme of things, but to me, it might as well have been a lifetime. In that time, I've moved three times, held three different jobs, and bought my first car. Life is always tumultuous, and funnily enough, Jane Colt was my constant. Even as I worked on other things, her series was always in the back of my mind. I always had something related to her books I needed to do.

Not anymore.

I've forgotten how to not be working on something Jane-related. So even though I'm now done, I still feel like there's something I should be doing. It's a confusingly empty feeling. I mean, finishing is a good thing. But I kind of miss working on this trilogy now that it's done. I've even taking to looking through the book equivalent of baby pictures... Cover drafts and old notes and whatnot.

Blast from the past: Behold the temp cover from when Artificial Absolutes was on Authonomy as Astral Sea: The Pandora Project, and I was trying to hide my first name because... reasons.
I finally moved the Jane Colt project folder off my desktop to make room for my next WIP project folder and put it in a folder called "Completed Projects," along with the Brave New Girls folder. It's been staring at me from my desktop for four years, and now it's gone. Part of me still doesn't comprehend this. But the fact is, I'm done with that series. Finished. Nothing left to write.

And that's just WEIRD.

What is this alien thing? WHAT IS IT???

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