I finished a novella today, the fifth one in a linked series, putting the series at just over 100,000 words.
It left me in an odd mood regarding this series because it exposed something that I think has changed in my writing style. It used to be, for quite a long time, that I wrote a novel in November, then put it in a box and didn’t really look at it again. Then in 2011 a writing group I joined (and still belong to) prompted me to pull out and revise an older novel. Through slow, careful submissions I sent two complete novels through this group over the next 4 years. They grew slightly in the telling, but fundamentally each ended up about the length I thought they would be, and each took about two years to submit, beginning to end. They ended up as much much better books, incidentally.
And then came Mrs Gagarin A novel that was a series of novellas rather than a single narrative. And there came the problem.
The thing about the way I write, or a thing at least, is that I tend to change things up between draft zero that I write in November, and draft one that I submit to my writing group, to the point where it’s very rare that a word of my November novel makes it to the group, although the sense and the scene structures usually make it through. As well as physically rewriting the group, I will also change the plot, finding something that works better or is emergent in the text as important. In War Poets this was Frau Bruckner. In Fateville this was Ethan. Each influenced and lengthened the text and made the books longer but more satisfying.
The problem with doing that with a series of novellas, especially mystery novellas, is that as you add new characters and plot twists and interesting ways for the story to go, the text grows fast. The story I finished today started life as an 8,500 word short story and ended up as a 24,000 word behemoth. And also a much much better story.
This is great in terms of inspiring creativity and improving my writing, but it leads to slow progress. I’ve so far completed only 5 of the 9 stories in my original November attempt to write the Mrs Gagarin series, and it’s taken me nearly 3 years. Part of that is that the stories have grown. Part of it, though, is that I’m just… tired of writing this series. It took me a year to complete the latest Mrs Gagarin novella. Now. part of that is that I was writing other stuff at the time (a LOT of other stuff as it happens) but I was writing that other stuff in part because writing Mrs Gagarin had become a chore.
I have at least two more Mrs Gagarin stories to write at some point, but for the moment I think I’m going to gently put the series down while I work out what to do with it, so that when it comes time to write these stories they’re a treat rather than something I have to do.
And in the meantime I’ll keep writing other stories. Which is a good time to remind people that you can find a list of my latest published stuff on my website here: http://isrennie.com/index.php/latest-work
(normal accepted/rejected service will be resume when my next story with my writing group gets comments back so I can whip it into shape)