The Muddling Middle

Yesterday, I passed the 25K mark on SoulQuest, so I’ve hit the middle of my 50K goal. Crossing the 50% mark on a project is both exciting and scary and it’s when I enter what I like to call the Muddling Middle.

On every project, when I hit the 50% mark, there are two thoughts that occur to me. The first is, “wow, I’ve made it to the halfway point! This is great, I’m going to finish this thing!” And then the second thought is one of panic: “Wait…I’m only halfway through? All the work I’ve done so far and I basically have to do it all again?”

It’s more of a state of mind than anything else. The majority of my books are novellas of only around 30K, so I’d be close to the end if I were writing those. I entered the Muddling Middle on every one of those books when I reached 15K. When that didn’t happen with SoulQuest, I thought I was in the clear and on a great track…until I hit the Muddling Middle at 25K.

So like I said, it’s a state of mind. It’s even happened on short stories of only a few thousand words. It’s this whole idea of being so close to the finish, yet so far at the same time and also a sense of, “you’ve invested this much into it now, so there’s no turning back.”

And the Muddling Middle can really be the point where a project will either see fruition…or stop dead in its tracks. There have been a number of projects of mine that just stopped dead at the Muddling Middle because I didn’t know where to go. A big part of this had to do with the fact that in the past, I didn’t plan out as much. These days, I do much more planning and I’ve got everything mapped out with SoulQuest—I know where I want to go and what I want to do. I know one theory could be, “well obviously, it’s time to change the plan if you don’t like it,” except I do like the plan and I think it makes for a great story the way everything is connecting together.

So it’s more of a state of mind than anything else. Given how long I’ve lived with SoulQuest and how much effort I’ve put into it this far, I don’t think the Muddling Middle will be strong enough to cause me to drop it. Nonetheless, it’s a difficult stage to hit, and something I’m sure many writers struggle with.

The Next Big Thing: SoulQuest

I was tagged in this game by Mark Bousquet earlier this month (which shows you how off my memory can be as I just remembered). The Next Big Thing is a little game where you answer ten interview questions about your upcoming project and then tag five writers in it. For this, I’m going to go ahead and tag Alan Lewis, Jim Beard, Sean TaylorKevin Rodgers, and Sean Michael Wilson. Join in if you guys feel so inclined.

TEN INTERVIEW QUESTIONS FOR THE NEXT BIG THING

What is the working title of your book?

SoulQuest.

Where did the idea for this book come from?

Several years ago, I was searching for an artist for a project. I got two responses and one of the artists was very talented, but his style didn’t quite fit the project in question. His style reminded me of the character designs for Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, two of my favorite video games, and it got me thinking about those games. I then came up with the idea for SoulQuest, and contacted the artist. Unfortunately, the project never came to fruition as a comic book, but the idea has stuck with me over the past several years and I’ve now decided to finally produce it as a novel.

What genre does your book fall under?

Sci-fi/fantasy. It’s very much inspired by Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, so I wouldn’t go so far as to call it fantasy in the Tolkien sense and there’s enough science and technology in it to set it apart from that setting.

Which actors would you choose to play your characters in a movie?

What, you couldn’t think of a more difficult question? In all seriousness, I’m not really sure. It’s got a fairly large cast. For Zarim, the main character and a sky pirate, I might go with Leonardo DiCaprio. Ekala, his right-hand woman, could only be played by Eliza Dushku. Swul, a hard-drinking, chain-smoking surly faerie would probably be either Jon Polito or Danny DeVito. Tanus, an ex-military guy who gets roped into this would probably be Idris Elba. There are more characters, but it’s difficult to cast them off the top of my head.

What is the one-sentence synopsis of your book?

I’m terrible at writing these things, but here goes: When the power of the ancients is awakened, the fate of the world falls to a ragtag band of pirates.

Will your book be self-published or represented by an agency?

Self-published through PulpWork Press.

How long did it take you to write the first draft of the manuscript?

It’s not finished yet. Currently I’m at around 16,000 words, so got a ways to go. It’s been in development for a while. I first began work on it when it was going to be released digitally as a serialized novel through an original fiction site, but when that site closed down, work stalled. I’ve since come back to it and managed a good bit of progress.

What other books would you compare this story to in your genre?

I’m not sure. I’m not familiar with a lot of books in this style, my inspiration for this comes more from video games and TV/movies.

Who or what inspired you to write this book?

As I said earlier, the impetus that got me thinking was an artist’s particular style and I drew inspiration from the previously-mentioned Final Fantasy VII and Xenogears, as well as TV shows like Firefly.

What else about your book might pique the reader’s interest?

New Pulp has a lot of focus on globe-trotting adventurers, masked heroes, or period pieces. This is a different kind of story from most of the New Pulp, and I hope that will cause some people to give it a look, even if it’s out of curiosity.

Back to the well

The life cycles of my projects can be really funny sometimes, and also a bit bizarre. For example, the project that would eventually become Love & Bullets, my third novel, was actually begun before I even sat down to write my first novel, Fallen. And The Myth Hunter may actually predate both of them, it’s all kind of fuzzy. But one project, SoulQuest, might predate all those books. This project originally came about when I was soliciting artists for a comic book project. I had it narrowed down to two artists, and both of them produced awesome samples of the title character. I had to choose one over the other (who unfortunately had to quit due to a higher-profile gig), but I liked the second artist’s style a lot and wanted to do a project tailored specifically to his strengths. So I came up with SoulQuest, a concept inspired heavily by some of the RPGs I’d played when I was younger (particularly Final Fantasy VII).

The artist liked the initial script and the character concepts I came up with. He drew two initial sketches and then just disappeared. Never heard from him again, never got any e-mail responses from him, nothing. Time went on and I stumbled on the project notes about a year or two later and started soliciting for an artist again. I had a really talented guy approach me about it, but his style wasn’t really what I was looking for. As this was inspired by Final Fantasy VII, I wanted more of a manga-esque style and he definitely wasn’t that. But he asked for a shot so I said sure, sent him the notes and he came up with some absolutely amazing concept art and character designs. They were spot-on perfect. I thought I’d had finally found my guy, as he seemed just as psyched about the project as me. He came up with designs for pretty much every significant character in the series, produced about three pages for what would have been the first issue…and then vanished. I tried e-mailing him numerous times over the past five years, each time getting no response. Even when I’d decide to transform this into a novel, I asked if he’d be interested in doing the cover art on commission, but still no response.

Brief note to any artists out there: If you aren’t able to complete a project, at the very least please have the courtesy to let your partner know. Yes, sometimes things happen and you can’t respond right away. And yes, sometimes you’ll get a gig that comes along that offers higher pay or more exposure and that’s fine. But at the very least, you should let them know what’s happened and why you can’t complete the project. It’s just common courtesy, don’t leave them waiting. I’ve more or less given up on trying to put together a comic, because this has happened to me on more than a few occasions.

Anyway, back on track. A few years ago, a friend began a website for original fiction, presented in a serialized format. This caught my interest and I wanted to get a chance to put SoulQuest out there. But the site fell through as the creator became too busy to maintain it, so he told us that he’d have to bring it to an end. The image you see at the top of this page was something he threw together as a promotional image for the series, combining a bunch of images he found online that were appropriate for the series.

Once the site fell through, I put the project on the back-burner, revisiting it occasionally. Now, I’ve gone back to it once more. I looked at what I’d written before and stripped out a bunch of sections that just didn’t work, the result was that the 10,000 words I had written were reduced to about 7,000. I also broke down the story, figured out the basic outline for it and went from there. As you can see in the sidebar on my main page, I’ve managed to make up a bit of the deficit I got from that big edit and have now broken 11,000 words.

Hopefully it continues.

SOULQUEST – On indefinite hiatus

Some keen-eyed visitors may realize that the “Serial Fiction” section of this site is now gone. I just received an e-mail from Ian Mileham who runs the Revenance Original Fiction site. Ian has been through some difficulties as of late, and so he wasn’t able to devote time to the site. This is why only the first chapter of my SoulQuest serial was posted. The second chapter had been written, but was never posted due to Ian’s difficulties.

Unfortunately now, Ian has said that his online presence will basically be nil. Whether or not Revenance continues with someone else remains to be seen. I hope it will as there’s some really great stuff over there.

As of right now, this means the future of SoulQuest is very much in question. It’s a bit of a shame, really, as this series seems to be plagued with setbacks. It started out as a comic project I came up with specifically tailored to an artist who wanted to work on a project with me. He did two character designs then vanished. Not long after that, I met another artist who contributed a lot to the concept and came up with some really great designs. After about a year of development, he too vanished without a word.

I was hoping Revenance would be a new home for the series but it looks like that’s gone silent as well. At the moment, I’m directing most of my efforts into Dragon Kings of the Orient, which will be the sequel to my upcoming novel, The Myth Hunter. And Tommy and I are about to break ground on The Adventures of Nicholas Saint, which we’ll want to have ready to go in time for the Christmas season.

So SoulQuest? For now, no. Sorry to those who read the first chapter and really enjoyed it. I do plan on coming back to it some day. Love & Bullets and The Myth Hunter started out as concepts that died and were later resurrected. SoulQuest could easily join them in the future.