I've been working on a new book for a few months now. It's a follow-up to Dancing Barefoot, which was a short collection of stories that I and readers of my blog enjoyed, rather than a follow-up to Just A Geek, which was a longer memoir.
I thought this would be really easy, but it's actually been incredibly hard. I have expectations for myself that some would call a little unreasonable, and today, I really wish that I had the fearlessness that I had with Barefoot because I didn't know any better. I'm running out of time to have this done by summer and available for
PAX and the big Star Trek convention in Vegas, and it's hard to hear my
own creative voice over the ticking of the clock.
Barefoot was about 23,000 words, and though the core audience of readers who knew me from my blog didn't mind that, the wider audience that I'd hoped to reach through more traditional avenues wasn't as forgiving. One of my goals with the new book is to come in closer to 35,000 words, so readers will be more satisfied, and I included a lot of material in the first draft to get to that point. In fact, by the second draft, I had 33,600 words, but after I spent a lot of time looking at it and making aggressive "quality control" cuts, I knocked it down to 21,000. Further cuts knocked it to 18,000, and it currently sits at about 22,000.
This should be fun, but it's not. When I sit down to work on this, everything feels wrong. I can't get myself consistently motivated and focused, and I'm not entirely sure why. It's mostly psychological: I have deadlines for other things now that I didn't have then, so I
don't have the luxury of climbing deep into a cave and just staying
there until I'm finished. I can't deny that I'm trying to recreate
something wonderful from the past, and I think that my desire to do
that is clogging me up. But it's also physical: My computer has gotten so sluggish and unresponsive since I upgraded to the latest version of Ubuntu, I'm constantly frustrated and annoyed with stupid technological slowdowns that I've never experienced before.
Physical problems I can fix with a trip to the computer store for a long-over due hardware upgrade. In fact, I'm doing that on Monday. But the psychological problems are much more evasive and difficult to solve than I'd like.
I think I may have to accept that what I have in there now represents the best that I can create at this moment in time. I have to keep reminding myself that this isn't about word count and the heft of the book, as much as it's about the stories within. I have to keep reminding myself that it's not about quantity, but about quality. I have to keep reminding myself that this is in the style of Dancing Barefoot, so it's supposed to be a collection of short stories that's easy to pick up and put down, and small enough to stick into a backpack or bag for a Summer trip to the beach. It's better to turn in something shorter, like Holidays on Ice, than force myself to include other stuff that doesn't pass my quality standards, just so it's longer. There will be no filler in this book, goddammit.
My friend, partner in crime, and editor Andrew and I spent a long time on the phone this morning talking about the stuff I want to cut, and how to make the stuff I've kept in better and up to my standards. I know that, when this goes off to the printer, it's going to be something I'm really proud of that readers will enjoy . . . but right now, at this moment, I'm filled with frustration and doubt.