Right now, the problem I'm having is that it's hard finding the passion; I'm having a hell of a time falling in love with a story. I'm falling in love with them after I'm done writing them, about the time the galleys go back. Which is hard--it's the professional equivalent of only appreciating the love affair after its over. It makes the writing an act of endurance, a performance of true grit rather than a celebration.
I can do that, and do it pretty well. All those years swinging a shovel teach you to swing a shovel well even when it's not really the way you want to be spending your afternoon. And the stories in my head are all stories I want to tell, and I'll never do it with anything other than my best ability. I don't really have it in my makeup to do things by half measures; it's either reading in the deck chair or I'm in with both feet. (This is a bug as well as a feature, as people who know me in real life will attest.)
Anyway, often times the stories that are the hardest shoveling come out well enough--"Follow Me Light," which has been reprinted in two best-of anthologies, was hard, hard work indeed. Which is how I know being passionately involved, inspired, afire, living in the story when I write it is not necessary component of doing good work. Carnival and Whiskey & Water were rough shoveling, but I think they're two of my best. (And I'm totally in love with both of them now, though when I was writing them I was begging to die.)
And I'm so bloody tired of Blood & Iron after six years of work on the damned thing that I am actually kind of boggled that the people who love it love it as passionately as they do. (cpolk says, "I told you so!")
It's really heady, by the way, having written a book that some people love. It makes me feel useful in the world, which is maybe the best feeling there is. So thank you all for that, everybody who has found a way to tell me that the book meant something to them.
It's making me love my book again, when the bloom was off the rose a bit, and I'm really grateful for that.
Anyway, mizkit and autopope (I mistyped that as "autopoe," which I sort of love.) have been talking a bit lately here and there and in comments about the hazards of overwork, and for me it seems to be that, after a good long hard five-year run, I've hit the end of the stories that I had daydreamed about enough to really want to tell. (I'm still in love with Patience & Fortitude, but those are old friends, and I don't need that book for four or five years, so it's gonna sit for a bit, thank you.)
So this is why I'm doing a couple of things. I'm going back to rework older material--because I love the tremendous brave bittersweet tragedy of the Edda of Burdens, in all its misguided glory, even if I wasn't writer enough to pull it off when I tried it the first time and I have a passion for the world and the characters, and I need that right now, that drug, that love, characters I adore and pity and pull for--and I'm trying to take a break from the mode of compulsive production I've been in.
Which is hard, because like any addict, I get fidgety and unpleasant to be around if I don't get my fix.
But this is what I've done since October of 2001, when I started writing again after a hiatus of, God help me, almost four years.
This is only counting first drafts, and there is probably a good 200,000 words of short fiction in addition to this. Where books spanned more than one year, I picked the year where the bulk of the work got done.
2001: All the Windwracked Stars
2002: The Sea thy Mistress, By the Mountain Bound, Hammered, Blood & Iron
2003: Scardown, The Stratford Man, The Cobbler's Boy (with truepenny), The Journeyman Devil
2004: One-Eyed Jack, Worldwired, A Companion to Wolves (with truepenny),
2005: Whiskey & Water, Carnival
2006: Undertow, New Amsterdam (I'm counting it as a novel, even if it really is a picaresque, because for purposes of this narrative it counts as a book.)
2007's plan is Dust, and a lot of revisions (The three Edda of Burdens books, and hopefully TSM and TJD), and whatever else takes my fancy. Current contenders being Patience & Fortitude, because it keeps bugging me, and a bunch of research for other Promethean Age novels.
Yanno, it seems like a lot, but I was unemployed for large chunks of 2002 and 2003. Which, yanno, makes the whole writing thing a lot easier.
(which is why I'm hoping to go part-time at my day job before the end of the year, as well; because working twelve-hour-days is hard, and it's really, really challenging to go home and write well at seven at night when you've already been working since eight in the morning and your brain is dumb.) (Yes, there are people who do it regularly. I have utmost respect for them. I'm not that tough.)
So yeah. I'm going to try to back off, relax a little, revise, and use the breathing time I've bought myself by working like a bloody lunatic since 2001 to fall in love with some of my new stuff before I have to write it.
We'll go on a lot of long walks and silly dates. It'll be fun.