Okay, I'm going to be honest here. I went to Japan for almost two months and wrote nothing at all.
That's really bad, I know, I know. E.R.-finish-the-project-Warren, basically didn't work on Serango. I can't blame the poor outline—I knew what the next scene was supposed to be when I left Los Angeles—and I can't even blame my schedule. I was busy researching and buying books, also traveling and adjusting. But there was plenty of time for me to establish a routine and get in some words on the book.
Being in Japan was wonderful, but also a snapshot of what can happen in a writer's head. After a few weeks in Japan just working on work, not noveling like it's a second job, I was amazed at how much time I had. This is how normal people are! I thought things like that. Then I wondered about how much better I could get at my other work if I didn't write. Nobody cares about me getting writing done, I thought. I'm not publishing online anymore, and it's hard to keep motivated to be rejected (repeatedly) when even your family isn't rooting for you. (Sorry, Family.)
It's like a scene in a Pixar movie, where adult Warren is sitting at a table with her thirteen year old self—much more gangly, much hand-me-down clothes, choppy hair— the thirteen year old self who had decided that was the dream, getting a novel published. And the tired adult me is throwing her hands in the air and telling the thirteen year old to give it up already. It's years later. It's hard. It sucks. It is absolutely minimally rewarding.
So, I had this general mush of thought while I was in Japan and enjoying my free time.
Then, the Pixar thirteen year old won, again, and while I was in the shower, I found myself fantasizing about the next book.
This was, well, both good and bad. Good because the next book idea got me really excited.
But, also bad, because the next book idea got me really excited. I'm probably halfway through Serango, and the next project, Kabuki-ish, is probably everything that Serango is not. It's more Food of Magicians (wholesome, fart jokes) than P+FD (splashy slow epic), and because I was in Japan, writing an irreverent fake Edo Period fantasy novel seemed like a swell idea.
As any writer will tell you, you don't want to get excited about the Next Thing until you're essentially done with the Current Thing. I am not even close to being done with the Current Thing. I was angry with the Current Thing. The Current Thing was supposed to be easy and bring me back to my roots, but instead it felt talky and slow. It didn't seem funny. It didn't seem fun.
Well, it helps a lot to have writer friends who can help pull you through. I read Kimberly Karalius's totally boss, totally top secret project in Japan, and somewhere in gushing at how great it was, I decided that I ought to not give up on writing. As completely worthless as my writing feels. Then, because she is actually on point, I got to read the opening of her honey sweet in-progress middle grade novel. And honestly, texting and just just reading brought me back to Serango.
Then, I returned to L.A.
After a day of rest and horrid jet-lag, I woke up and went to the usual coffee shop. I sat down. I re-read the last couple chapters and I realized that all the reasons I had bemoaned the project was actually what made it a little special. It is slow. It is talky. No agent in a million years would want to rep it. But I remembered why I decided to do that. It's because the narrator is a real person and there are a lot of characters doing weird things. It's a slow burn in a weird setting with characters that are figuring themselves out, where they want to be. Who they want to be. There's no crystal clear villain. It's really like wading into murky water and knowing that something is going to go wrong, but you won't know what exactly until you're pulled under.