First, I am still reading the /r/AlexandraQuick subreddit regularly. And avoiding the temptation to jump in, both because direct interactions with the author I think change the tenor of the discussion, and because I already fear being influenced too much by reader input. There have already been a few instances of readers pointing out "oopses" which I had to address, but sometimes I see something and think, "Hey, that's a great idea! I wish I'd thought of it!" Which is dangerous; I am still trying to write the AQ series as if it were a professional work. Which means, not getting too caught up in fan expectations, and letting it stand on its own without the author there to speak for it.
I have decided that at the end of AQATWA, I will do an AMA on the subreddit, so that will be your chance to hit me with questions or "WTF were you thinking?"
Support Starving Artists
What do you mean you don't like my Poser/Photoshop jobs?
An early version, based on a scene that ended up being rewritten.
Okay, a lot of people have enjoyed the chapter illustrations I commissioned from artists on DeviantArt, Etsy, etc. Not gonna lie, I enjoyed seeing these pieces so much I kept ordering more, and ended up spending a silly amount of money on AQATWA. I'm not sure I'll do that for future books. I have pieces lined up for every chapter to come (but sorry, a few of them are still my Poser art :P).
I love getting fan art. I also love commissioning art to my specifications, but that's a different experience, as I am, frankly, terrible at describing what's in my head in a way that an artist can translate, especially if the artist is not a fluent English speaker, which is often the case. I have never been unhappy with anything I commissioned, but some pieces did come out, well, not exactly what I had in mind. Like the Franklin Percival Brown illustration by Akuncezva. I described him, and told her he was a Harry Potter wizard, and she decided he must be a Dumbledore-sort of wizard, impressive and powerful-looking. Hah.
Anyway, I commissioned several pieces from her, and as a thank you, she did a piece of Alexandra fan art without really knowing much about Alexandra.
Yup, that's cute. But let's be real, Alex is never gonna have a rack like that. :O
Akuncezva is genuinely struggling; she lives in Russia and is taking care of a rapidly declining grandmother and DeviantArt commissions appear to be her main source of income. So commission something from her if you are charitably inclined. Several of the other artists I've commissioned are similarly in situations where a commission is more than just spending money for them. (I realize I have no way of verifying anyone's story, I am just going on what people post in their journals.)
The Future of Alexandra Quick
I have already started book six! And for a change of pace, I've actually done a fair amount of outlining of books six and seven, to try to keep myself on pace and with a clearer direction of where I'm going.
I have known, since before I finished book one, how the series is going to end. I still don't know exactly how I'm going to get there, and tick off all the checkboxes I have in mind along the way, but actually writing them down and putting them in some kind of order is helpful. There are some major structural decisions to be made. As you have probably noticed already in book five, the fact that Alexandra is no longer attending Charmbridge means the school year is no longer a useful framework for pacing the story. Without spoiling too much, books six and seven will also have this problem, which means if I intend to make each book equal one year, as in Harry Potter, and as has always been my plan, I'm going to have to... figure out some things. Or alternatively, Alexandra will not be 18 when the series ends. There is even a possibility that I'll decide to make this a six-book series, and the next book will be the final one. Being wedded to a seven-book series was mostly based on deliberately emulating the Harry Potter series, and there is no intrinsic reason why I have to follow the HP series' format so strictly.
Still, I intended seven books all along, so it will be very hard to abandon that goal. And right now, I still feel like everything that is meant to happen will fill two volumes.
For now, AQ____ is proceeding apace. For those who like numbers, it is currently at 11 chapters and ~60K words.
And yes, I'm painfully aware that I announced similar numbers for AQATWA a long, long time ago and then took seven years to finish. So it is what it is, but right now, I'm back in the habit of writing regularly.
But What About That Novel?
Some of you may recall that I spoke of trying to get an original SF novel published, way back when. I still think it was pretty good, but while I got a few sniffs from agents, it never landed anywhere. I will admit that after running through all the low-hanging fruit on the submissions tree, I didn't keep at it, so I'll try again eventually, but not until I have another non-fanfiction novel or two under my belt.
My SF novel did get serious consideration from one publisher (one of the few that takes unagented submissions) - it made it all the way up to the top editors, but after a wait of literally years, they ended up passing on it. They did send me individualized editorial critiques, which is very rare in the industry. I confirmed later, speaking to someone else who worked at that publisher, that it meant my manuscript was in the top 1% of submissions they receive.
But, it still didn't quite get there.
I know that what serious writers do is write more books, and keep trying. But this came at the time when I also struggled to keep writing AQATWA, so I didn't keep trying.
I'm not getting any younger, so I'm going to try again.
Some of you are probably thinking, "Why don't you just put it up on Amazon as an indie author?" I may do that, someday, after I've given up hope of being traditionally published. The reality for indie authors, though, is that unless you're just doing for the ego of seeing something published with your name and getting maybe a handful of reviews, gaining any real traction and notice requires having (1) A large pipeline or backlog of novels to keep putting out there; (2) A sizeable platform; (3) A lot of marketing hustle. Otherwise, even if your book is good, it's a drop in a vast ocean of mediocrity. The reason people still try to get published traditionally is that unless you are one of those handful of standout indie authors who manage to seize a moment and an audience, you're just not going to be seen when your book is #1734 on Amazon's "science fiction" list. The people who "go indie" are very serious about it and approach it as a professional venture, have to do a lot of spamming, and even they are usually pretty naive about the hill they are trying to climb. I have little expectation of writing ever being more than a hobby - would be nice if it was a paid hobby, but still - so I'm just not willing to put in that kind of effort for so little reward.
I have never done NaNoWriMo before. It's always seemed kind of silly and pointless to churn out 50,000 words of unedited crap and then think you can turn it into a viable novel afterwards.
Well, just as an experiment, and to see what it does to my writing, I've decided why not? So I'm taking it on this year. We're on Day 3, and right now, I'm on pace, word-count wise, but I really need to step it up (and stop writing LJ posts) because I already know there are going to be quite a few days this month when I will not be able to write at all.
The novel is based on a plot bunny someone gave me a long time ago, and I have always wanted to write it, so this is my chance to give it life. Unusually for me, it's neither SF nor fantasy. We'll see how it goes. I'm not really taking "winning" NaNoWriMo too seriously - if I just can't get to 50,000 words in a month, so be it. "Winning" for me will be having enough of a manuscript that I think it's worth finishing and refining.
This means of course I am taking a one-month hiatus from writing AQ book six, but I think this might be good, as I'm at a point where I'm having trouble getting to the next step (plot holes, pacing, the usual) and while I know what happens when I take too long of a break, sometimes you do have to put something down and work on something else for a while.
And now, back to the word churn.