The Crown of Eldrete is, so far as I can tell, now removed from all ebook markets. The print edition still exists because it’s more tricky than just clicking a button or two to remove a print edition from Amazon/Createspace, but since as far as I can tell Mom is the only person who ever bought any print copies, I don’t give a damn. If you really want to order a copy of a book that is no longer canon . . . thanks for the money, I guess?
It’s weird. I remember how excited I was to finish writing this book and how excited I was to publish it, but I don’t regret unpublishing it at all. This isn’t — though I had to convince a little, obnoxious voice in my head of this — because it only ever got one positive review and that was from someone who seemed to have not read it closely . . . the review implied it was straight up fantasy instead of me repurposing fantasy tropes in a space opera setting. It’s mostly because the last two times I’ve tried to reread the book, I’ve not been able to finish it.
I admit, it’s not uncommon for me to read things I wrote in the past — even things I loved and thought were near-perfect at the time — and dislike them. But this went far beyond dislike. I couldn’t finish reading something I fucking wrote!
Hell, I couldn’t finish something that was around 20,000 words! That, regardless of who wrote it, is astounding. I read roughly 700 words a minute on average. I’ll put up with a lot of annoying shit for half an hour’s worth of reading. And I couldn’t finish this book.
Now, part of that is that my perception of how some things in the bigger picture of Universal Nexus should work has changed since I wrote it. But if that were the only problem, eh, I’d just let it be and if called on it by fans someday make reference to “alternate legs of the Trousers of Time” or something equally geeky. So clearly there was more than that.
I’ve written a whole rambly post or two (Do I ever write any other kind?) about why I released it in such a relatively unedited state and what I would do if I were to rewrite it, so I won’t go over that again. Besides, ultimately, the problem with it . . . the reason it’s no longer for sale . . . the reason I couldn’t finish reading it the last two times I tried . . . is very simply this: It wasn’t a book I wrote for me.
Now, I know there is a school of thought among authors and wannabe authors that goes, roughly, that you shouldn’t write for yourself if you ever want to make money at all, that you should write what the market wants. And I’m not going to argue with that. If your goal is to make money.
My goal isn’t.
Now, a lot of people seem to see the alternative to writing for money as writing to illuminate deep shit about the human condition. In case my phrasing didn’t clue you in, I don’t go for that much either. If you get something deep out of my work, cool. I mean, I’ve gotten deep truths about life out of fucking books about a certain scimitar wielding, lavender eyed, drow. I think a person finds universal messages where their ready to see them for the most part. But, if you get anything deep out of my work, it’s not because I deliberately put it there, that’s for damned sure.
All I want, is to write something like the stuff I like to read. Maybe that’s selfish and short-sighted. Fucked if I care. Ray Bradbury said “You write to please yourself. You write for the joy of writing.” Last I checked, he wasn’t some obscure author nobody ever read. Pretty sure I can find a Louis L’Amour quote saying pretty much the same thing, and he sure as hell isn’t obscure.
The Crown of Eldrete though . . . I started writing it because I had a cool idea. This is not a bad thing; it’s the only reason I ever start writing anything. Somewhere along the way, though, I started adding stuff because I felt like they were elements a story was supposed to have. It’s more plot-driven than anything else I’ve ever written (yet it got reviews that said it had no plot, go figure), and it has bits that . . . I wanted to have character depth and growth and all of that stuff that you’re supposed to have, and I shoved it in where it didn’t really fit.
Yes, my concept for Lyndsey has for a long time been that she has a constant conflict between being an adrenaline junky and wanting to live long enough to see her kids grow up . . . but that’s not something I should’ve resolved in a couple of scenes. Because, well, constant. This was supposed to be the first book of a series. She should’ve been struggling with this throughout. And — since Universal Nexus is a setting, not just one series of books — maybe it shouldn’t have been resolved at all yet. (In the rpg version of the setting, which is the same as the written one in broad strokes but varies in details, this problem was eventually resolved by her quitting the Daggers, after some deep soul searching and painful conversations with people she trusts to give her good advice, and becoming a martial arts instructor and competitor. I think that’s a much more interesting character arc than what happened in Crown, personally. I’ve got a rough draft of part of that story written. Maybe I’ll finish it someday.)
Likewise, with regards to the plot . . . I don’t really understand how you do plots. I’ve tried finding things to help with this. This, actually, is how my “collecting bad writing advice” hobby started, in fact . . . there are so fucking many things that assume the only two types of plots are the motherfucking Heroes’ Journey and formulaic romance novel. I can’t find anything that would help someone write the kind of story I enjoy, I’ve discovered.
Earlier today, while trying to write a description of the story formerly known as Jake Becomes Mithoska for a secret project, I finally realized just, exactly, what kind of story it is I’m writing.
I’m writing, when I just write the way that comes to me naturally and don’t give a damn about what anyone else is going to think of my style or any of that crap, a fictionalized memoir. The first few lines, as they’re presently written, of the chronologically first Jake story establish that it’s a story he’s telling his grandkids and great-grandkids. The earliest versions of Universal Nexus stories, the ones I wrote years and years ago back when bits of it were still using names from the properties it all started as crossover fanfic of, frequently used the idea that these were stories being told to other people. I abandoned that at some point for reasons that I’m sure made perfectly good sense at the time.
But I’m going to un-abandon that. I write in first person for a variety of reasons, some of which are, admittedly, to cover flaws in the technical side of my writing, but mostly it’s because when I’m writing I’m not thinking “what should happen next to advance the action/increase tension/whatever else it is I’m supposed to be worrying about”, I’m thinking “and then what happened?” And, to me, that kind of approach lends itself to a meandering first person story. (Not as meandering as my blogposts, I feel the need to stress . . . at least not after editing.)
I guess the simplest way to put it is, I’m not interested in telling you how Lyndsey and her distant cousin Taliza and a handful or rebels and Daggers got the titular crown back, honestly. If I were to ever rewrite the story — this is still just as big an “if” as the first time I mentioned it, ages ago — it would be Lyndsey telling the tale of what happened to her during the Dagger mission where she met her distant cousin and they got this crown back and found her great-great-grandfather’s sword. Because Lyndsey is Lyndsey, there would be fight scenes, there would be the bits with Vik bitching at her . . . though those would be completely rewritten so she called him out on his hypocrisy, but there would also be completely new bits that are recounting a fun game of kista with her friends during a bit of downtime, bits that show who she is — not in a “This scene increases the readers’ understanding of the character” kind of way, but in a “This feels like an amusing/fascinating/whatevering is appropriate story told by someone” way.
Lyndsey’s not a writer. She’s just someone who loves talking about her adventures. So that’s what a story about her should feel like. It should have all the bits she’d tell people about, not just the bits that are relevant to the plot arc and character arc and all that other stuff. Because that’s how I prefer to write: I’m just kicking back and letting the people in my head tell a story to me.
And then I’m cleaning it up a bit so it makes sense to other people too.
(And that sounds a little bit crazy, but, eh, I don’t give a fuck. I’m probably not completely sane — I mean aside from the anxiety and OCD, even. I’m not sure anyone who is a good writer . . . by which I mean good storyteller, not necessarily someone who’s good at the whole technical side of writing thing . . . is. Like I’ve said before, no sane person would go “I’m going to dedicate my life to a career that is pretty much guaranteed to mean perpetual poverty!”.)
(And, yeah, I wandered all over the place in this post. I had coffee with lunch. It wasn’t decaf. Blame it if there’s any bit that really seems to come out of nowhere.)