The Poll Results

So a week or two ago I posted a poll by way of a casual (very casual) means of canvassing the readers of this blog regarding what I should write next. The three possible actions I asked people to vote on - and the results - are as follows:

1 - Write a novella following on from Survival Game. I really want to know what happens next. (10 respondents)
2 - Screw that. Write something completely new. Don't hold back all those original ideas. (11 respondents)
3 - I hate novellas. You should definitely spend the next year slaving over a brand new book. (3 respondents)

That's a couple dozen replies, which is about as much as you can hope for with these things. Ten people think I should write a novella sequel to Survival Game, eleven think I should do something completely new, and three think I should get the hell on with writing another actual book.

Now, in fairness, it's not the best designed poll. Right after I posted it, I started having flashbacks to college when I learned how to build survey questions that aren't leading or trigger unconscious biases. However, the questions wouldn't quite fit in the box that the SurveyMonkey website describes, so question 3 often disappeared from view. So it's quite possible people didn't see that they needed to scroll the box to see the third question.

Secondly, I neglected to specify in Q2 that when I referred to writing something completely new, it should be a completely new novella. It was implied, but that's not the same thing as stated. So the low figures for option three could be construed as being the result of bad poll design.

Either way, I think we can call it an even split: roughly half of you think I should get on with writing the third Extinction Game story, and roughly half of you again think I should write something new. That means I could go either way.

I did go back into my files and dig out the outline for the third Extinction Game book and work on it again. It was a little rough, since these things are usually put together in a relative hurry for the sake of the publisher. The rule of thumb is these are only rough guidelines for how a book might look once it's done, particularly since a lot of writers tend not to stick exactly or at all to any outlines they might generate. They exist purely to give the publisher a rough idea of what they might get.

Or at least, that's the theory. I suspect some editors don't realise just how much of the creative work happens during the writing of the actual book. Anyway, the outline I had was a little threadbare so I took most of a week to fill out the bones and get something that held together better.

So all I really need to do is write it, although I suspect, given the amount of detail, it would be rather more than a novella. There's enough there for a full novel, though I'd still like to keep the length down. I'm also far from sure how this works if a publisher has already published the first couple books.

So there's that. What about original stuff? Well, there's some ideas waiting to be written, but right now my brain has more or less left me a note saying it's going away on holiday for a couple of weeks and it's not doing any fiction writing until it's good and ready.

Or maybe it's just its way of telling me to write another Extinction Game story. Now the question is: if I wrote it, would enough people buy it to justify the effort?

Perhaps it's time for another poll. 



Like I said, I was going to talk about novellas.

Novellas are strange, sometimes unloved beasts. Too long for short story markets, too short to sell as novels, they’re never quite the right size. And yet a lot of writers love them because it’s possible to express an idea in a story only a quarter or a third the length of a full novel, so in terms of sheer typing, at least, they’re a lot less work. Readers love them because, unlike many novels, they’re short and sharp and no longer than they need to be. But they’re also a good deal harder to sell.

Back after I delivered my last book for Tor, I realised I had the opportunity to work on stories I’d been wanting to write for years. First, however, I needed something for my agent to market, so I spent ten months working on Echogenesis. Publishing is a slow business, with negotiations dragging out interminably for months or sometimes longer, so I knew I probably had a wait ahead of me.

I wrote some short stories, but once those were done I had other ideas that felt like they deserved more than a short story. But neither did I want to spend up to a year writing each one.

Writing those ideas as novellas was clearly the answer. I think I originally had the vague notion of publishing them myself, but ultimately that's going to be a matter of last resort. If you can market something to a publisher, you should. So far I’ve written two novellas, but now I need to think about what to do next: write another full-length novel, or work on more novellas?

There’s an outline for a third Extinction Game book that Tor rejected. It doesn’t need to be the full length of a novel: I could probably fit it into a long novella if I wanted to.

Or I could write something different and entirely original. But if you happened to have a preference, what would it be?

(By the way, the window on that survey there is a little funny. You might have to scroll it up so you see all three options).