This is not a drill, you guys. THIS IS NOT A DRILL.
Okay, my writing blog is going to be ESPECIALLY writing-y until I settle down into my next long-slog project, because at that point it would be too boring to blog “yup, wrote more words, still got a lot to go.”
Until then, deal with my flailing panic because I’m even more of a nervous over-thinker between projects than I am during one. (I’m a wonderful person to live with, I assure you.)
I recently finished the rough draft of my western fantasy about ghosts and mermaids and a wild land that definitely takes sides. I set it aside to cool because lemme tell you… the first draft was a hot mess. The second draft drastically improved matters, but I’ve got a couple more tweaks to work on before I send it to my long-suffering beta readers.
To take my mind off the western, I outlined my next book (a third world fantasy about the rise and fall of a winged mecha-warrior in a city where the gods may or may not be gods). It’s the easiest I have ever outlined anything in my life. I know the structure and basic action of every chapter. And hallelujah I even learned my lesson from the last couple books and planned out the plot reveals instead of assuming I’d figure it out on the way.
(Silly Sam. You never figure it out on the way.)
I wrote the first chapter and loved it. THEN I got suspicious. Why so easy? I better let the outline cool off a bit and look at it with a critical eye, just to make sure I’m not missing something.
To take my mind off the western rough draft and the mecha-warrior outline, I wrote a short story (a scifi bit about a first contact mission going wrong, and also about the regrettable lack of female crewmembers in classic scifi). It might be good but it also might be a mess, as you can imagine at this point I’m just throwing my hands in the air because I need some sleep!
Okay but that’s not the end of my mania. I’m going to clean up the short story because editing 10 or 15 pages isn’t so bad. And I am on the verge of conquering the western edits, so I feel good about that.
But to take my mind off the western rough draft and the mecha-warrior outline and the scifi short, I paused to read a book this week. A recent award-winning book by an author whose other books I have greatly enjoyed.
The structure is alarmingly similar to the book I just outlined (following multiple timelines, when the main character is younger and training versus older and jaded). And the character naming convention is similar (based on your location and work). And one of the relationships is similar to that of my secondary characters.
*TELL MY SON HIS MOTHER MEANT WELL*
There are obviously major differences in the character building, plot, setting, and themes. And the latter couple things are superficial enough. But I keep agonizing over those structural similarities because as a reader I would go “uh huh, somebody really liked Book Title by A. Better Author.”
I know it’s silly to compare. There are loads of books with dual timelines (though most seem to be historical fiction and therefore timelines about separate characters, according to my Googling). I think the first one I read was IT by Stephen King and it blew my 11-year-old mind. And that’s a whole cast of characters embarking on a parallel nightmarish mission as children and as adults, so yeah, it’s doing the “follow the same people before and after” thing.
Which is all to say: I’m calming down. I’ll write the book anyway, because I really want to and I think it says a lot. It was just bad timing that I read this one this week. In the very slim hypothetical future in which I sell the book and readers draw comparisons, I will cringe but still be happy I sold it. If nothing else, I’ll console myself with the fact that, in terms of the themes and styles that are currently top of the SFF market, I’m only a step or two behind the big leagues. In the end, it all boils down to execution anyway.
Now. Back to edits.