Killing Your Babies (Literarily Speaking)

No, this is not a post about my abortion.  Literarily not literally.  Anyway —

Let me tell you how THE IMPERIALS SAGA came to pass.  Years and years and years ago I was on a panel about the third Star Wars movie The Return of the Jedi.  Among its many failings was the fact that I could not accept that the imperial senate would ever approve the vast sums of money necessary to build a new Death Star after the Emperor and Vader had let a farm boy blow up the first one.  I mean, I know he’s a terrible dictator but damn a government budget does have some limits.  And suddenly I had a character, a fussy older man, the Chancellor of the Exchequer for a galaxy spanning empire.  A man who decides to join the rebel cause while still holding power because he’s got a taste for forbidden alien girls and he falls for an exotic dancer.  There was another main character, a resentful young man who had been taken from his home when the League came in and conquered his Hidden World.  He had been fostered with a noble family.  He’s playing at revolution and learns that it has very real consequences.

I wrote about 70,000 words on this novel.  I read sections of it a conventions.  That’s where George heard me read, and fell in love with the universe I had created.  George suggested we develop Imperials as a shared world like what we had done with Wild Cards.  I invited in some friends, George and I hammered out the details.  We would follow these seven characters through their lives as they loved and fought one another.  We envisioned six books.

At this point I had realized that the novel just wasn’t working so I put it aside and embraced the shared world approach.  Unfortunately (or fortunately) we didn’t succeed in selling the project, and I put all of it in a drawer.  I had created my character for the shared world, the son of a lowly tailor, resentful of the upper class, but brilliant enough to win a scholarship to the League’s military academy.  A young man who falls in love with the heir to the throne.  Those of you who have read THE HIGH GROUND, the first book in my series will see the direct line from shared world to novel.  Tracy was also based loosely on a character I had played in Walter Jon Williams Privateers and Gentlemen campaign, a paper and dice role playing game.  (Don’t let anybody tell you gaming is a waste of time.)

Years passed and George and Gardner Dozois invited me to write stories for two anthologies, SONGS OF LOVE AND DEATH, and DANGEROUS WOMEN.  I found myself mining the old, almost forgotten manuscript for ideas, and ended up writing a story about Tracy and Mercedes and one about Tracy and a ranting drunk who tells Tracy of a vast alien conspiracy.  All of which made me remember how much I liked the universe I had created.

So I threw out the entire premise of that abandoned novel, came up with a new first book, but kept the idea of following Tracy and Mercedes through their lives, wrote some seventy pages of the book, a detailed outline of the world, the characters and the five books it would take to tell the story and sent if off to my agent.  Who sold all five books to my publisher Titan Books.

The point of this story is that sometimes you have to accept that a project just isn’t working and throw it in a trunk and forget about it.  That doesn’t mean everything about the project was a waste.  Pieces of it can be resurrected, but you have to have the ability to acknowledge when something isn’t working and stop wasting time messing with it.

If something is taking more than a year to write I’d take a hard look at that project and decide if it’s time to move on to something else.

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