I am taking a break from writing The Wandering Inn for the month of May, 2023. Patrons will not be charged for the month. My longer Author’s Thoughts are below:
No one will be charged on Patreon for the month of May. I have paused billing on Patreon until May 29th, and that should stop anyone from being charged in May. If you sign up on May 29th, you’d pay again on June 29th if my understanding on how Patreon bills is correct.
I am going to be writing Gravesong, Book 2, which will be released on Yonder when it is edited and ready to publish. This is the last chapter I will publish until June 3rd. This is the second month-long break I have ever taken, and the first time I’ve ever had to take a break off for another writing project, and it feels a bit like defeat.
I have often thought about taking a break from writing The Wandering Inn for a while. I have thought about what I will do when this story ends, because it will, one day.
Or what will happen if something comes up. I have not—yet—written down the entire outline of the story into a document, because I’m not that organized.
I could, but the story would inevitably change and take on incredible details and things I couldn’t predict. But I could at least do that and give it to my assistant just in case. I don’t have any health conditions or problems that I know of, but chance makes fools of us all, and it’s no guarantee anyone will be safe from accidents.
In this day and age, I think that holds as true as it ever did. I often think of Robert Jordan, who saw his own end coming and made arrangements to finish his great work.
That’s not the point of this announcement, but it occurs to me it’s something I should do because if this story cannot be completed, the readers who have gone twelve million words should know how it ends. That’s the kind of thing an author owes to readers.
But I digress.
If I took a break from The Wandering Inn, it would be for three reasons.
One—personal loss or issues in my life that I must deal with. A house burning down can be as impactful as anything else, and I will stop writing and come back when I am ready. I’m fine with that, and that is what everyone should do. Whether I go to writing to deal with it or step away, that’s inevitable.
Two—if the quality of the story suffers. I often write, every single major chapter, that I don’t know if what I’ve written is good. And it gets tiring and on that subject, me saying ‘I’m tired’ has made readers ask whether I need breaks. I’m afraid that’s just because I write my Author’s Note right after finishing a chapter, and the truth is that I put as much into a chapter as I can. I try not to coast because that feels like a way to write inferior quality.
So I know that I am improving, and I am generally happy with most chapters. However, if I felt like I had written eight bad chapters in a row, or needed to go back and erase work, and this was a downwards trend, I’d take time off. I have thought, privately, that given the scope of The Wandering Inn, if I need to, I will take an entire year off. That would be if I hit complete, full burn-out, and I would hope I could come back to writing after that refreshed.
Dramatic, perhaps, but quality has long been a concern of mine. And I always say the fast nature of web serial writing means that quality is sometimes less than a professionally published piece, but there is a difference between that and my own standards falling. I can write a good chapter when sick or tired, but that thing we call writer’s block or true burnout…well, that is not the case, but it is an option I will not hesitate to employ if need be.
The third case in which I take a break is if I have something so time-sensitive or crucial it must be done. And I’m invoking that now.
I added a one-update break to my monthly week off to work on Gravesong, Book 2 for the Singer of Terandria series with Cara. The manuscript, not the publication date, is in July, and I knew that I had about four months a while ago.
My hope was to write while taking breaks off each month. 2-3, which would give me enough time to both write Gravesong 2 and work on Volume 9 with more gaps, but the story coming out.
It’s become clear to me that both my growing obligations outside of writing and the effort of writing a book mean I can’t do that. So. I’m taking all of May off to write Gravesong 2, and my hope is that I can finish the book in a month enough to go back to Volume 9.
It’s not a given. And that’s frankly disappointing to me, because it means I’ve hit a limit in my writing ability.
Not in quality, but output. I have not ever really hit it before. I’ve written 40,000 word chapters, every day for a week, and gotten tired, but this is the first time I’ve realized I am incapable of working on two writing projects at once. Novel-sized stories are hard, and even if I pushed on breaks and between writing Volume 9, I’d compromise on the quality of both Gravesong 2 and regular chapters.
This book deserves full effort, and so a month is what I need. I may need more. I don’t want to do it, and it’s dispiriting in one sense, even if I know I have time to finish The Wandering Inn—the rest of my life at worst.
In another, I may try to write snippets for Volume 9. It may be that I’m allowed to be more creative and write short pieces or just take a break and change my style. That’s another thing I think authors need to do. I’ve done experimental pieces like that descriptive opening with Khelt. Changing how you write and trying new things is as important as doing that with exercise or travel or experiences.
But still. I’m taking a month off, and it’ll be hard work for me to rush to get as much done as possible. What this means for regular readers and Patreons is that I won’t guarantee any releases. If I have snippets, I’ll put them on Patreon, but I am putting a hold on the month of May so no one will be charged money. Like my break after Volume 8, that’s only fair.
I apologize if you were looking forwards to the story, especially after what should be the end of the Order of Solstice’s mini-arc. Hopefully a month will just make the story better for everyone.
But it’s tough, writing this long tale. And I don’t mean to compare this to anything strenuous or any other job. I’ve worked jobs that were far more dangerous, exhausting, and stressful than this. This is just a different kind of effort.
It’s very self-absorbed. A lot of how I’m feeling each day goes into the writing of a chapter. Planning and outlining a story arc can sometimes feel like feeling around in the dark. I had an analogy I wrote that compared writing to a ship at sea. And that’s all accurate. However, I always had a second extended metaphor I knew I could write.
Sometimes, writing is encapsulated in the feeling of finding a moment in a show, book, or just piece of art that makes you remember what quality is. Even if the rest of the produced work is bad—the thing I’ve chased in The Wandering Inn is that feeling when I saw something that set my blood on fire.
That perfect moment when a story showed me something I couldn’t have dreamed of, but knew I wanted the moment I saw it. That perfect bit of magic that was real.
If you’ve ever heard your favorite song for the first time—you know what that’s like. It’s like standing in a hurricane and looking up at the rain coming down, or a tremendous breeze on a cool fall day that blows a forest of leaves into the air.
For stories, I think the charge of the Rohirrim in the Lord of the Rings stories was always that first moment of heroism I ever saw. When King Theoden gave a speech—it was the first one I had ever heard that made me sit up and listen.
Or video games…well, it’s hard to remember which one drew me in so long ago.
Perhaps Pokemon Red (because the Pokemon Blue game I bought first malfunctioned), and the concept of having a cool Pokemon? Or the unsettling dread of meeting the Flood for the first time in the first Halo games.
You can’t go back to those moments, and the memory of them is good, but the moment in itself is what I keep chasing. And it’s what I dearly want to make. But it’s impossible for me to know if I can, because I’m not the one experiencing the story. I can only write it, and sometimes I think I’ve done it, and other times I don’t know how to begin. A lot of the things I admire aren’t expressed in words, and even the things that are—I don’t write like my favorite authors, not entirely.
So, here’s another story about how I see that journey. And it’s definitely a metaphor. Everything I write is truth and perspective. Keep it in mind.
It’s become a dark place, far, far from the surface. And there is a surface, somewhere, high above.
But the light that shines down is dead and gone a long time before you ever reach this place. This is at the bottom of everything.
The walls look like flesh, wet and meaty. They drip with the same thing that runs sometimes waist-deep—a liquid red and black, like contaminated blood.
It’s everywhere. Darkness and this pit where everything clings and adheres to each other. A swamp out of nightmares.
How it smells and feels is best left undiscussed. And in that pitch blackness is someone.
He’s building something down in the pits. Wading around, diving into the sludge headfirst, and coming up with…more muck. Trash and detritus. Which, after a lot of effort, he hauls over to something being built in the middle of all of this.
In the darkness, he tries to find the best spot and cakes it on. With his hands, with tools, poking and prodding bits of mud to…a structure. It falls apart, and it’s badly made in places. Yet it rises, and it’s never one thing forever.
Pieces fall off. It decays. It’s not a pretty sight, if there were sight down here. And the man is always laboring, sometimes cursing, despairing, and gives up on his great project often. Then he’ll just lie there for a long time.
…But he always comes back to it like an obsession. Always keeps building.
His entire world is that dark pit and endless sludge. There’s so little light that all he can see is the malformed thing he’s working on.
But there is a twist—and it is this: there’s a glass mirror, and people are staring into that pit. They can talk to the man, and sometimes they applaud. Most don’t even care even if they knew it was here. Some have critiques.
This isn’t about how the man interacts with his audience. Or how that changes him. It’s always…about what he’s building, and sometimes he asks what they see.
Some people tell him it’s very good. Others claim it’s something beyond anything they’ve seen before. Others just like it, and there are a lot that apparently watch without ever saying a word. He takes it in—then turns around and stares at a pile of trash and blood and grime.
Sometimes he thinks he sees what they do. Or then he sees all the flaws they can point out, in all the painful details and imperfections and the way there was never a plan and it’s rotten to the core.
But the question is why he’s doing all of it. And the answer he tells one visitor like me is quite simple: he’s trying to make something beautiful.
The only question is—as I stand there and look at all the flaws in the edifice the man is working on, all the cracks and imperfections and trash he had to build it out of—his question is the same as mine.
Can he do it? Because the man is trying to build something only he sees. Something he has never seen in his life. Only pieces of it in other great monuments that people before him have made.
He’s seen them, and he would be fine if he could capture it here. Just a fragment.
For you see, in this pit of trash and worn ideas and inferior design and his own bad tools and materials and his sense of design—the man is always trying to build something else. It should shine like a crystal, with the kind of light that will transform everything around it. Magic, perfect, the most beautiful thing he’s ever seen, and something that his audience will never forget.
—However, look around at the filth he has to work with. Look at that misshapen structure. Nevermind what other people see. How is he supposed to create something that perfect from what he has?
That is that lonely man’s eternal quest. He’ll never have whatever his dream is made of. It’s only whether he can, by taking a million flawed and broken things, repetitive themes and silly ideas, create something perfect.
A perfect creation out of flaws. Or, if that’s not possible, capture just a tiny reflection out of all his work that you can see. It’s that conviction that keeps him going. The idea that he might one day reach down and pull that shard out of the muck, or make it by endlessly combining the best of what he has together.
A wondrous alchemy. A brilliant insight, or a discovery of ages. Anything. But what it will create is something so radiant that it would burn away this pit and reveal the best of things, all the things he wanted to make that ended up looking like more sludge.
Transformative. Something that matters to his audience, despite the fact that he may never meet them or know their names. That will last far beyond him.
And perhaps, if you can see it, one day someone will figure out how to make something even better, that even his dreams couldn’t capture.
All he wants is to see that dream a thousand times wherever he goes, so he doesn’t get bored.
Imperfection trying to make something greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a fun goal, a dispiriting one at times, and again, utterly selfish and self-absorbed.
And remember. This was a metaphorical story. Like ships at sea. It is genuine to how I feel, sometimes, but it cuts out a lot of silly and ordinary stuff. It makes it seem like one dark pit when the reality is sometimes that pit is more like a footbath. And sometimes I have snacks.
Also, when I conceptualized this analogy, I thought that I would never ‘see’ what readers saw unless I started having memory problems and literally forgot my story. But I have re-read older chapters, or listened to Andrea narrate them. And you know what?
I enjoyed them. Which is weird. There are times when I wince and know I worded something wrongly and many times when I looked at something and knew I could improve it. But I also enjoyed the writing I did, perhaps because I forgot writing it or the details.
…That doesn’t feel right, even to me. It’s like eating your own leg or something. Maybe I’ll go blind. But it’s nice to know future-me might approve of what present-me did if I do it well enough. Yet I keep chasing that ‘better chapter’.
When I find a new song that makes my heart leap, I write a better chapter. When I watch a good movie or read or consume something amazing, it usually makes me work far harder and come up with new ideas.
I’m just a silly creature like that. I hope my story made sense, and I’m feeling better after writing this out. I’m taking that month off, and I’ll do my best. It’s a long, strange journey. I’ll do anything to keep it feeling fresh and wanting to keep going, even if that means a break. And I do have other stories I want to tell.
I may need to stop a while to work on them, but I don’t think I could bear to leave this story unfinished. Just wait a second. Sometimes it feels like I walk slow.
PS: I just learned that Winston Churchill published 15 million words in his lifetime. So I have not written more than Churchill, whom I assume was busy doing other things along with having a prolific writing career. That’s a fact for you.
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