Reading My Own Work

In 15 days, BREACH OF CONTAINMENT turns 2.

I’ll write it a birthday post, of course. Not sure what I’ll say. Those two years have been far more interesting than I’ve wanted them to be, for a lot of reasons. But for the last several days, I’ve been re-reading the book, and that’s been…an experience.

I can’t remember when I first started writing BREACH, but drafting was beginning in late 2015, before my first book was published. My deadline for turning it in was October of 2016, before my second book was published, seven months after the first book came out. I was still fleshing out details and revising when I was told the series was dead.

Being aware of working on a book that would likely be your last trade published effort gives you a peculiar sort of focus.

I can’t, of course, be completely detached as a reader. I remember choosing the words, shaping the scenes. In general, I’m happy with how it came out. That I love it goes without saying; I love it unreservedly.

But there are some things that could have gone better. I think the biggest issue is that it does too much, gets too convoluted, relies on too much intricate detail. In particular the last third suffers from pacing issues: each chapter advances a separate storyline, increasing the tension, and then the next chapter switches to a different storyline and resets the tension. The build isn’t bad, I think; but it’s inconsistent. Ending a chapter wanting to know what happens next is good; wanting to skip the next chapter so you can get there is bad.

I wanted three more months with this book. That I might have been more efficient if I hadn’t been dealing with the probable end of my writing career probably goes without saying, but honestly? I don’t know. I fall in love with detail in ways I shouldn’t. I want conclusions for my characters that aren’t grim. I am too soft-hearted for my own universe.

And knowing this book might be it? I wanted readers to have a conclusion of sorts, even if in my mind the story wasn’t finished.

I only read one industry review of the book. (Whether it was the only one written or the only one that wasn’t awful I don’t know; it’s the only one the publisher forwarded to me, but given everything I couldn’t expect them to be paying much attention.) The review complained that coincidence played too big a part. I disagree, but it’s absolutely a valid interpretation. (The reviewer said they enjoyed the read regardless of having been annoyed by the coincidence issue; that’s just fine by me.)

The pacing of that last third does settle down after a few chapters. By then all the storylines are moving pretty quickly and barreling toward their inevitable collision. Reading, I found my impatience with scene changes turning into interest. If I had it to revise, I’d be focusing on the last part of Part 2 and the first bit of Part 3. I remember why I made a lot of the choices I did, and streamlining would certainly mean wider changes. I could’ve tightened it, I think. Some. I could hopefully have dealt better with the pacing.

But I wouldn’t change the story. I wouldn’t change my characters. I’d hold back some of their decisions for Book 4, but their trajectories would be the same. At this point, they walk around in my head like real people, and I know what’s going to happen to them.

It’s a hard book for me to read, in a lot of ways. When I started writing it I was full of hope. When I finished writing it, I had little hope left. By the time it was published, I had nothing at all. That I can still find joy in it is kind of a miracle.

But I don’t think any writer gets anywhere if they don’t love their own work. You need that love to bear you through the discouraging times, which are legion. You either embrace what you’re doing, or you detach completely, and I can’t help but believe detachment shows in the writing.

I’ve spent my life writing first for myself. If I could go back to 2015, I’d do a lot of things differently. But I’d never undo the work.

I didn’t want to link this at the start, but this page on my author site lists all the retailer links for the book. If character-driven space opera is your thing, you might enjoy it.

11 thoughts on “Reading My Own Work

  1. I’m just about to launch into the third book after loving the first two so much. So I’m wondering if this is the end – is this a trilogy? Did you intend it to go on, but had to stop after three? Or will there be more?

    1. Short answer: It wasn’t intended to be a trilogy, but I do conclude some major ongoing plotlines in BREACH. If it ends up being the end, I don’t think readers will be left in the lurch. I have two more planned (one partially written), but as of now I have no publisher for them. I will self-publish them if I must, but that’s not my first choice.

      Longer answer: I’d never planned a specific length to the series. My agent subbed the book to publishers as one book “with series potential,” and publishers came back wanting to contract three, which was entertaining since I only had a book and a half written at the time. 🙂 (I also, for some insane reason, agreed to have two published in the same year, which is a schedule some writers might be fine with but was absolutely murderous for me.)

      Since BREACH was finished I’ve been thinking and working on what happens next, all while writing a non-series book. At this point I’m pretty sure the Central/Ellis arc will be concluded in two more books. Whether I decide to tell more after that I can’t say now. I suppose it’ll depend on what my life looks like when I get there. But my intention is to publish two more, although I can’t tell you how that’ll happen.

    1. Two published in the same year???? That’s a nightmare. I don’t know any writers who’d be happy with that for such substantial and intricately plotted books. I always think it’s weird when a publisher loves someone’s work because they’ve put so much time and love into it, then tries to set up a publishing schedule which undermines that. I hope you don’t have to self-publish – so much harder in terms of distribution – but if you do I’ll be there. I’m really looking forward to reading whatever else you write.

      1. All I’ll say is publishing is a weird business, and that schedule is one of a couple of big choices I’d make differently if I could go back. 🙂

        Yeah, self-pub is a HUGE amount of work, but I’m lucky to be part of a writing group with a lot of experienced (and successful) self-publishers. I won’t be going into it blind, at least. It’s not my first choice for these books, but I’m happy it’s an option!

  2. I finished Breach last night, and loved it even more than the other two. Perhaps it’s because I’m more invested in the characters after the two previous books, but the stakes were so high in this one, and it’s such a powerful book emotionally. I disagree that it does too much, gets too convoluted. That’s one of the joys of it, one of the things that makes it such an immersive read. Having read your post, I kept waiting for the pacing issues, but they didn’t appear – mainly I think because each of the story lines was gripping, so I was never tempted to skip. Okay, maybe once, just to make sure Elena was still alive. But once I knew that (at a glance) I was happy to go back and see how it played out. Thank you so much for this series – I love it unreservedly.

  3. My SciFi diet had been reduced to reading Cherryh’s annual new Foreigner books. A long-remembered reference on Steve’s FaceBook page led me to give “The Cold Between” a try. A week later, I’ve burned through all three of your Central Corp books in rapid succession: loved the plot lines, loved the characters, and loved the pacing.

    I’ve never written serious fiction, but I have a pretty good idea how much energy and care it took to create these three page-turners. Thank you!

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