Tuesday, May 19, 2020

Finish Your Vegetables!

Reading: "Do you finish every book you start? Why (not)? And how do you decide when to give up?"

-From Frank
This is a great question. I'm really curious to see the other answers to this one.

My answer is almost always YES. I've never started a book in any meaningful way (beyond just a few stray paragraphs) and not finished. But that's more a testament to my process than anything. I usually don't start something until I know I'm fully ready to go on it. A book or story might marinade inside my head for months or years getting to that point, but once I actually start writing it, I almost always finish it.

A quasi-exception, though, is my forthcoming River City novel, Place of Wrath and Tears. I had originally envisioned this as book #5 in the series. The central idea was in place by 2009, while I was still working on #4. My first draft of the book dates back to 2014, just six months after I retired. But it stalled.

It wasn't so much for creative reasons as personal ones. While I loved my career and am proud of it, the difficult, principle-based decision I made to retire when I did left me with some emotional scars. As a result, River City, which is a very thinly veiled Spokane, was not someplace I wanted to be. Really, it wasn't a place I could be, at least not inside of the police department.

So the book languished while I wrote other stories. Those are all stories I'm proud of, and was excited to explore. But at the same time, readers frequently asked me when the next River City novel was coming out. I lied and said, "soon." Maybe "lied" is a strong word, because I knew I would return to River City. I just didn't know how long it would take.

I dipped my toes in the water with some anti-hero works set in Spokane. I even wrote the third Stefan Kopriva novel in 2015 (Friend of the Departed), which is set in River City.

Eventually, around 2017, I felt ready to rejoin the RCPD, as it were. But in the meantime, another problem had occurred. I realized that before I could get to Place of Wrath and Tears, there was another entire book that had to happen in the timeline. This became The Menace of the Years, book #5. 

Finally, in early 2019, after finishing #5 and writing Charlie-316 with Colin Conway, I picked up the 48K words I'd written on Place of Wrath and Tears, and dove in. It was a bear, too, if I'm being honest. There are other reasons for that, enough to fill another complete blog post, so I won't go into them here. But at least these were challenges within the process of finishing, not something that kept me from actually sitting down to write the damn thing.

Because there were times that I thought I might not finish it. And given that River City is my flagship series, and that it references specific years and dates throughout, and that the events within this book are referenced elsewhere in the canon....well, it wasn't like I could just skip it entirely. There isn't enough retro in ret-conning to fix that. So I guess that's my answer to the second part of the question - when to give up.

The answer, for me, is never.

Final point of irony here. Or maybe it's a natural outgrowth of the experience of writing this one. But when I came to realize the theme of this book, it turned out to be a fitting one.



Blatant Self-Promotion Brought to You By Me

My newest novel, Never the Crime, the second book in the Charlie-316 series, will be released on June 22. 

This book continues the saga of Officer Tyler Garrett, as he moves past the events of Charlie-316

Detective Wardell Clint is still trying to crack the biggest case of his career. 

Meanwhile, a series of city hall scandals draw in different members of the police department, forcing some difficult ethical decisions. Before all is said and done, people will learn that it is never the crime that does you in, but the cover up that follows. Will anyone come through unscathed?

Available for pre-order now. And check out the trailer:


Jennifer J. Chow said...

Great question! I used to ALWAYS finish reading everything. Now, I don't really have that luxury of time, so I definitely give a new book the benefit of the doubt for the first few chapters.

Susan C Shea said...

Ah, Frank, I realize you and I interpreted the question differently. I thought it meant every book I read, and you think it means every book you write! Good - more perspectives.

Paul D. Marks said...

I'm late to the party today, but I also read the question the way Susan did. But in terms of finishing everything I start to write: no way. I have a lot of abandoned projects along the way. But I keep promising myself that I'll get back to them.................someday.

Frank Zafiro said...

Dang...this was a 'Reading' week? My mistake, guys. Sorry, but hope the read was at least a little interesting.

To answer the right question, it is a resounding NO. As a reader, I'll give the author some grace, but if you're not grabbing me with SOMETHING, my time is too valuable. I have no problem making the thumping noise that is closing a book for good if it isn't working for me.