Last week I wrote about why I keep producing fiction despite the less than blockbuster sales results I’ve achieved so far. This week, I’m looking forward to the new year, with some hints of what you might expect from me in the months to come. As I’ve mentioned in previous posts, I don’t make New Year’s resolutions per se; they strike me as a triumph of hope over experience. But I do have writing plans for 2024, as well as some news about editing and publishing, so here goes.
First, Song of the Steadfast. After months of hand-wringing and denial, I finally figured out what stood in the way of finishing the rough draft of Anna and Yuri’s story. Not to belabor the point, I had misunderstood the exact timing of events during the Great Moscow Fire of 1547, which caused me to require my main characters to behave in ways that, while plausible in the midst of a crisis, didn’t make sense for either of them if they had a few days to think about it. In my defense, the events are generally presented in history books as occurring almost simultaneously—what’s five days from a perspective of 550+ years later? Still, as a novelist, I know that in tense scenes every minute counts. Even after working out the character and plot problems, I still needed to find time among editing jobs (on which, more below) to do the actual writing, but I did finish the rough draft before Christmas, so I will be revising that for the first half of the year, with the hope of producing a finished text by next fall.
Once that’s done, I can move on to Song of the Silk Weaver, which is set to take a leap forward in time of almost a decade while veering south and east in terms of geography. I have lots of research planned and some half-baked ideas for a main character and her story, but it’s very much at the “what if?” stage at present. In some ways, the “what if?” stage is the most fun of all: anything can happen, inconsistencies don’t matter, and it’s a real process of discovering what makes a particular character tick. It also sparks new ideas for future books, which as part of a series can be hinted at in the current work in progress. I doubt I will manage a full first draft by the end of the year, but one never knows: some stories flow, while others twist themselves in knots that require careful straightening. At this stage, it’s too soon to tell which type Silk Weaver will be.
In addition to my own writing, I have begun editing more fiction for other people, and I hope that will continue throughout 2024. This is a big transition year for me, as I will be retiring from my longtime academic gig at some point. I don’t want to give up working entirely—indeed, I can’t afford to—so editing fiction as well as scholarly manuscripts makes for an enjoyable compromise. That’s one reason I didn’t fuss about losing writing time in 2023 to editing jobs: I need to build up my client list and lay in funds before the transition takes place.
With that extra free time, I’m also planning to improve my way-too-sporadic social media presence. It’s perfectly true, as I wrote last week, that I produce fiction for my own enjoyment and share it after the fact because I can. Still, it would be nice to have more readers and even better to know that, whether I do or don’t, I’ve done as much as I can to let people know that my novels exist. So the idea is to set aside time to post and share and interact, at least long enough to test whether doing those things really does make a difference.
Last but not least, I have a full schedule of New Books in Historical Fiction podcast interviews lined up through June 2024, as well as some written Q&A’s destined for this blog and, of course, the blog itself. It’s hard to believe that I’ve kept it, once a week, for eleven and a half years. New posts will continue to appear here, but if you ever want to check out the older ones, you can still find them at http://blog.cplesley.com.
And to everyone, Happy New Year! May 2024 bring you health, love, happiness, and whatever you want most in the world.
Images: Painting by Pavel Pleshanov of Ivan IV “the Terrible” and the priest Sylvester during the 1547 Moscow fire (1856) and page from the 16th-century Illustrated Chronicle Codex (Litsevoi letopisnyi svod) showing the Russian conquest of Astrakhan in 1556 public domain via Wikimedia Commons; cartoon image of an editor purchased via subscription from Clipart.com.