One of the changes in my approach to writing hasn’t shown up yet, but it’s beginning to take on a possibly destructive tone. I have a lot of WIPs backlogged, some of them fairly well along in development, and I’m thinking seriously about deleting quite a few of them. As I’ve mentioned before, my early fiction was influenced by a temporary but intense immersion in male/male slavefic, much of it fanfic. All that reading was meant to be just an exploration of an area I didn’t know anything about, but it resulted in works that I now feel are somewhat trivial.
Of course, my first “non-trivial” novel, Privileged Lives and Other Lies, has turned out to be a bomb as far as sales are concerned, but it’s the direction I need to go in, so I’m just stubborn enough to keep going that way. Privileged Lives isn’t really a good novel because I didn’t give it the time it needed to flesh out properly. But I suspect that even if I hadn’t rushed with it, it still wouldn’t sell. I’m pretty sure people read the blurb and get turned off. It’s a serious novel, and doesn’t fit comfortably in any recognizable genre. So be it.
It’s a matter of finding my feet and settling on a path that’s meaningful enough for me to stay on it. Since my primary concerns are personal autonomy and the rise of authoritarianism, there’s going to be some consistency in my topics. Some might say “sameness.” It means that I’m going to be getting more cerebral and steering away from anything that will let readers respond primarily on an emotional basis. I think Hidden Boundaries is, in that context, a failure because people do respond to it almost purely for its emotional content rather than the issues it raises, mostly about slavery. But it sells — slowly but steadily.
With all this in mind, I’m glad that I haven’t finished The Warden, in spite of working on it for a couple of years. The ending has hung because there’s something missing from the novel, and it took a long time to figure out what it was. Partly, it was my concentrating on the characters in such a way that the reader response would have been emotional. And there wasn’t enough of a context for what was happening — the social changes that made a new kind of imprisonment and the prospect of slavery for some convicts a possibility. A question of balance, really.
Then there’s the question of whether I’m capable of writing about serious issues in a way that makes them compelling. I guess I’ll just have to keep plugging away until I know, one way or the other.