I recently finished the first novel in a series, called The Julia Set. It’s a multi-viewpoint sci-fi/fantasy angel thriller. It’s a new a new genre to me, I’ve never written a series, and, as always with my writing, it was ambitious in its structure. Consequently, the novel took three-and-a-half years to write and I finished it more than once. Each time I finished I knew it wasn’t quite there and but each time I toyed with letting it go the way it was. Other projects niggled at me. Time passed. It was getting embarrassing how long it was taking.
Once upon a time, I was a minor graphic designer. I worked for a few companies and had my own business for a while. For me, graphic design was a continual learn-while-producing medium. At that time the technology was changing very fast. Styles shifted client to client and each customer had their own ability to communicate, their own too-small budget, and hard deadlines. The deadlines were great to get you in the chair. And so was the money. It’s such a treat when creativity pays in cold, hard, cash.
But truth to tell, most times when I released my graphic designs it was when the deadline hit and the work was “good enough.” The designs were good enough. The projects were successful; the client was happy. Only I knew that I was capable of doing better, but there wasn’t ever enough time or money in the budget. That’s the trade-off for the cold, hard, cash.
Art or Craft
But there was something about that that always chafed me. I’ve been called a perfectionist, but I don’t think that’s what I am. I consider myself an artist. And I know when something is done and when it’s just “good enough.”
My writing journey has always contained the conundrum of knowing what I wanted to produce vs what my craft toolbox was capable of. In the beginning the writing was simply bad. So I focused on mastering the kind of craft a critique group will pummel you with – point of view, backstory, dialogue, continuity, etc.
Then I attempted a commercial path; I really wanted to be paid to write. So I jumped onto the romance wagon to make some money. I discovered three things:
- I had the voice and could create the tension.
- It was harder than it looked.
- The women I knew who were producing one or two historical romances per year were actually making less money than I could make by taking a less-than-ten-hours per week data entry job.
Back to the Root
So I turned back to more serious fiction. I mastered the finer aspects of story craft – the stuff you won’t get in a critique group. I focused on developing my voice. I explored the depths of me in a psychoanalytical way. I made stories and sense of where I came from, where my ancestors came from and how I saw my own story. I framed and reframed and tried to write a memoir which morphed into an autobiographical novel which finally, blessedly, morphed into fiction.
But during the process of writing that book, “The Train to Pescara”, when I became sick unto death of navel gazing, even in fiction, I set that book aside. Deliberately. I knew I would come back but I needed a break and the shift of perspective that would offer. I also knew I had to get something out there.
So I decided to tackle a genre that interested me but I’d never written before. And The Julia Set was born.
It started as a lark. A friend and I decided to just write something and self-publish it so we could see what that was like. I should have known better. I wrote the first draft of The Julia Set. But then realized there was actually something more than was on the page. I couldn’t let it go as Good Enough. So I rewrote it. And then it was close but not quite there. Then the frame that made sense of the whole thing came to me and I rewrote it again.
And it’s now done. My craft ability and my vision are in sync with this book. I’m shopping it and I’m happy with it.
The Train to Pescara is on deck and I’ve begun the revision. My learn-while-producing style is finally paying off. I’ve closed the gap between my vision and my tool box. I’ve arrived.