Pay Attention to your Creative Voice

Astral Tides: The Shadows of Uhmakhet is the first sequel I’ve set in place with the intent to publish. While I have written sequels before, it was years before self-publishing was ever even a thought or belief I had in mind, ever before it was even known to me, let alone considered achievable. The Shadows of Uhmakhet is also my second foray into the universe of the Council, the Union, and, more importantly, the crew of Captain Daltir Stone.

Rimward ended on more of a cliffhanger than any other book I’ve written thus far. And my plans with the story and the series was to make it huge. Six books, at minimum, cataloging the events of Captain Daltir Stone’s life from the first page of Rimward all the way to the final book. And if I decided to take it further, then I would, and if I decided to do spin-offs, then I would. Somewhere around episode five of Rimward I was riding high in the clouds on the fervor and excitement of the story, the characters, and the hanging plot threads, and I felt I could run this story for years without ever running out of steam.

And then I started The Shadows of Uhmakhet.

At about the end of episode three and the beginning of episode four for this book, I began losing steam, and quick. Getting my words out became more and more difficult, and hitting my goals every day was becoming a pain in and of itself. I’d have days where I could easily get 4.5k words onto the page, and then not get more than 500 words out over the course of the next few days. It was inconsistent, and I couldn’t stand it, or myself. What was happening? Why was The Shadows of Uhmakhet so difficult for me to write? I originally attributed it to the idea that the story wasn’t going in a direction I liked. But upon going back and reading earlier chapters, I realized it was going exactly where I wanted it to. The intrigue, the mystery, and the action was ramping up and really coming to a boiling point in this book. So if it wasn’t the story’s direction, then what was it?

Was it the fact that I was becoming a better writer? I knew that the more I wrote, the better I would become at writing. I knew that I was a better writer now than I was when I started The Shadows of Uhmakhet. But this didn’t feel 100% correct, either. I was getting better, but that should give me drive to finish the book, not bring my momentum down to a crawl.

Instead, I realized where I was going wrong. It was not in direction, nor was it in quality. It was in length. Or rather, it was in what I perceived to be the required length for one of these books. The same thing had happened around episode four of Cybersaurus: The Awakening. I was slowing down, and finding it difficult to locate my drive again. It was because I was exhausting myself and exhausting my investment in this story. These books of over 100,000 words, which I had started with Cybersaurus, were what I considered to be “quality novel length”, when really I slowly began to realize that the writer in me, the creator and the artist, wanted to write more books, smaller in size, released more frequently.

So what if I cut them in half?

What if, instead of producing books in ‘Seasons’, with each season comprised of six ‘Episodes’, I instead just wrote a book. I instead shot for the standard novel length of 50,000 words, and planned accordingly. I would keep chapter lengths the same (around 2,000 words each) and that would make for about 25 chapters per book. Decent length, easy to read, easy to consume, and, best of all, easiest for me to write.

And so, dear reader, please do not be discouraged by the length (or lack thereof) of this story. The Shadows of Uhmakhet delivers on all the character-driven story, drama, and action that was promised by Rimward. It introduces new faces, new conflicts, and will leave both you and me salivating for more, despite only being about half as long as Rimward. But I, as a writer, need to listen to my creative voice, and need to do what’s best for me, which will, in turn, ensure that I deliver the stories that are best for you.

It is difficult to come to terms with the idea that I will be changing my work and my plans so radically going forward, but I am certain that it is for the best as I find that sweet-spot, the magical length that is, for me, the perfect mix of passion and creative spark. And I’m sure that, as time passes and other projects come and go, that length will change. But for now, I think I’ve found it.