On a Series’s Note: Life in Marginalia

Well, I am still working on Man and Brother, which does not appear to be coming out this year. I’d like to explain the delay, especially since I’ve been working on it over the past year and have just not had it come together as quickly as the previous book.

I want to offer the best novel I can write to readers.

WriteratWorkWarningI’m so fortunate to know many writers who feel this way and who produce great indie reads. My writing peers encourage me to raise the writing bar along with them. Readers of independent short stories, novellas, and novels invest in authors who don’t fit the mega-publisher’s checklist of what they think will sell. So, I want to prepare an entertaining story with compelling characters for those amazing folks who take a chance on me.

So, I’ve been working on backstory, on themes, on denouements in later books with little hints of what’s to come in this one.

Research takes time.

As a science fiction writer who’s dealing with fantasy creatures, I have to pause in the middle of work to do more in-depth research. I’m no scientist, so I read pop-science introductions before I grind through more scientific treatises. I also dive into mythic bestiaries, mytho-histories and fables by region. Then, I have to consider how to make it all work together. Sometimes it doesn’t.

Also, this series is written in the modern world, with ‘Til Undeath Do Us Part starting just before the Mayan apocalypse “scare” of 2012. Man and Brother takes place in a fictional town in an area of the United States which I had not visited since Star Wars was in theaters the first time. Nothing like a road trip to inspire a setting-based redraft, and I had quite a bit of luck tripping over more research material.

Yes, I’m still pulling story out of the creative aether, but I committed to having characters who don’t simply accept magic and the supernatural as par-for-course.

Life gets in the way.

I’m a parent and a spouse. I’m also a woman. So, well, I’m also dealing with all of the fun-bunny things life tosses folks like me around middle age. Do I wish I had started the Cryptid Series in my mid-thirties, when I first set down the outline and had the energy to really write this out? Yes. Unfortunately, this series wasn’t ready to be written then.

The Cryptid Series had its beginnings in 2007 or 2008, and those first notes were awful. It was more melodramatic than it is today, and it was pretty shallow as an exploration into how I believe a scientifically-minded and trained person would try to handle it. I’m happy I didn’t start writing it then, because it wouldn’t have been a series I would have been proud to have my name on.

So, I wrote about three dozen manuscripts about a wacky beach city in California. I dealt with a lot of personal issues and my reactions to social issues through those books. I got my time in developing characters over a series, working with backstory, realizing outlines are my friend and should always be invited to the writing party.

Man and Brother is much bigger than ‘Til Undeath.

Man and Brother sets the stage for the entire series. Major subplots are established here. New characters are introduced and old characters evolve. This manuscript was supposed to come in at about 100K words. I’m halfway through, and I’m already at a 100K word count on the rewrite. It’s going to weigh in at about 200K words.

So, I have to ask myself: Do I hold this epic-sized novel together and push back to an April 2016 release, or do I divide Man and Brother into Part 1 for an October release (which I can do) and Part 2 for an April release (which I also can do)?

I’m still debating that question, though I lean toward the complete yet later release. I can develop an entire story arc for Part 1, despite leaving it at a substantial cliffhanger. I would commit to dividing it sensibly (not at an arbitrary point). The mechanics of making Man and Brother a two-part novel isn’t the problem. I would feel so guilty cutting apart the story like that, as if I’m trying to squeeze more money out of readers for a serial installment that’s divided by word count alone. I don’t like it as a reader, and I don’t want to be known for that as an epub writer.

If readers want to weigh in, I’d love to hear what folks have to say either on Twitter, Goodreads, by email, or in the comments section here.

I want to take a break to read and review books.

I miss reading fiction, which I avoid while I’m writing my own fiction novels. I don’t want to steal (unintentionally) from others’ works. I intended this to be done months ago, set into the pipeline for editing and epub formatting. This really stinks, holding back on reading books by my friends and taking time off from writing.

I keep thinking “I’ll be done this weekend” or “I can take a break at the end of this month, once I’m done.” I’ve thought that since April of this year, when I put out ‘Til Undeath. I nearly didn’t put out Solaray Dawn because I was so preoccupied with Man and Brother‘s rewrite.

Eh, I ought to toss that stupid rule out the window for this one. I have a strong outline for Man and Brother. I think I can enjoy others’ novels and sharing that with other readers without suddenly going off-the-writing-rails and copy-pasting someone else’s book into my own world.

It’s dry season in the wild, wild, writing west.

That story flow just isn’t happening with this one. When I let the story flow, I have to watch out for scene rehashing–when an idea sticks so hard that a character repeats the same scene twice or more at different points in a book. While it happens in real life, it is boring in a book.

So, it’s slow and it’s steady and it’s tedious. I feel trapped by my novel, not uplifted by it.


Well, I’ve finally done a blog entry after months of retreating into this book and exhausting myself utterly. It’s Thursday, so I have great Twitter writing chats that I will try not to miss. I need to get back into Mondayblogs, and I have drawn a whole lot of blanks over the past few months.

Then again, I don’t need to write a Mondayblog to participate. I can just show up and read and share others’ blogs. Maybe this week, it’s time to pull out that pink diva and let that typewritten draft flow onto pink pages. I don’t know what will work to break out of this funk. I’m just trying to stop living in the margins of a novel I’m learning to resent.

6 thoughts on “On a Series’s Note: Life in Marginalia”

  1. Jess – I wanted to parallel your experience to mine. However, I’m a dude in his early forties, three kiddos, (understanding) wife, and part-time software consultant. Balancing all of that and trying to complete a manuscript has been super-duper hard for me. Even though I cannot completely parallel your position, I do understand.

    I am looking forward to your next book in the series, no matter how you put it together.


    1. Thanks, Ward.

      It’s been a struggle, one that I believe anyone who’s fought to bring a manuscript to publication understands. Your support means a lot. Some days, I want to run screaming from being a writer. I honestly wish sometimes my life could be crocheting amigurumi, making origami, and baking pies and cakes. However, I’ve learned that writing as a profession isn’t always a choice. Some folks, like you and I, are grabbed by the muse and are forced to write stories as part of our life’s purpose.

      I’m glad you’re in the fight with me. May we some day sit together at an awards ceremony honoring your contributions to literature and toast the endurance to get through days like these. 🙂


  2. Hey Jess,

    I haven’t read your work, so I can’t comment in depth. All I can do is extend a sympathetic hand from another writer.

    I have a series I’m bound and determined to whip into shape. It’s taken MANY rewrites and beta swaps, a content edit, and it’s STILL not ready. I got to the point that I really didn’t care if my characters ran off naked into the woods. And got eaten. I was that burnt out.

    So I wrote some shorts, and I’ll be releasing those as my debut instead. I did a lot of beta swaps and reviews. Built my social media. Wrote another novel.

    It doesn’t always come to order. And it’s okay to let it rest if that’s what you really need. You’re the best person to decide if plowing through or doing something else will be more productive. And that answer can change from time to time.

    You know how to do this. Your spark is still there. Don’t worry–you’re still a writer, even when the words aren’t flowing. You’ll get a groove again. 🙂


    1. Thanks, Cathleen. How strange that we all go through writing burnout yet sometimes think other authors don’t. I’m happy that so many empathize with what I’m going through. It’s hard to put anything down, for fear it won’t get picked up again. But you’re right. I am still a writer, and I’m not letting go of the story I want to tell. 🙂


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