Handling Crime When I’m Writing Science Fiction

St. Jerome and skullFor 15 years, I wrote crime fiction under the name Jim Winter. There is some debate as to whether I should put those books back out. I certainly have the covers for some but would need to rework a couple of them. The problem was, at the time I entered what I now call my hermit phase, that I could not be bothered. Finding the right covers for Compact Universe books was hard enough. And now that the series (or at least The Amargosa Trilogy) is starting to get a little attention, is it worth my time to put out books written under a name I refuse to use anymore?

Well, probably. Gypsy’s Kiss, the final Nick Kepler story, outsold Tishla the month I took it down. So who knows? I just now am getting the Compact Universe formatting and covers where I want them. A little extra cash from writing would help promote them even further.

But now I’ve sent my Wire/87th Precinct-inspired crime novel off to a traditional publisher. I can’t say much because of the arrangement made to have this looked at. Suffice it to say, agents and query letters and the whole slog of trying to get a book deal with become part of my life again. And that means having at least the rough draft of a sequel in the can by the time I ink a deal. I have at least two more ideas to follow the new story. Trouble is…

If you read this space yesterday, you know I’m also writing a screenplay as the first draft of the final Amargosa novel. Go to my books page or read the suggested reading order, and you’ll see there are three Compact Universe novellas (four, if you count No Marigolds) for every Amargosa Trilogy volume. Which means I not only have to get Storming Amargosa ready for release next year, but I have to write all three novellas that follow Second Wave.

My solution to this has been to write the next crime novel in segments. The Wire, a grim, realistic crime series that ran on HBO around the time of Battlestar Galactica, served as one of the inspirations for what I’ve termed my magnum opus. Among other things, it tended to make the story somewhat episodic without losing the narrative thread. So I’ve started to think of the new crime novel as a series of 10 episodes in an HBO/Netflix-like series. So I can treat each four or five chapter-run as its own entity but still have an overall plot and cohesive storyline.

But I have to be creative about how to fit it all in. If the publisher calls, I have to drop everything to get this done and revised. no matter what promises I make on Storming and its attendant novellas. As long as they remain the priority, though, I need to find ways to write fast without compromising. I went screenplay with Storming so that I know this story well when I put it into prose. The Amortals started life as a novella called Quantonesia. Rewrites tend to go faster because I already know the story. Flight Blade, which introduces two characters integral to Storming, steals two characters – one from a friend, the other from myself – and has a heavily detailed outline. That leaves Exiled, the story of Rosc from Tishla. I plan to write that longhand, meaning I can take a notepad everywhere I go. I might work on that on my honeymoon this summer. [Looks over at fiancee, who is watching Zumbo’s Just Desserts on the Food Network and goes, “I love you, honey!”)

The point is to write these fast and get them into revision so I can come back quickly to the crime novel. Can I do this? My celebrity crush Jenn Nixon wrote 450,000 words. Being her primary beta, I’m certainly glad she did. She has really pushed herself hard as a writer, so I see no reason why changing up and doing this many projects this year won’t do the same for me. (Now go read That News Guy.)