Hugh Howey
Hugh Howey

Bestselling author of Wool and other books. Currently sailing around the world.

The Alluring Mess of my WIP

Not since I, ZOMBIE have I so thoroughly loved writing a novel that I knew full-well everyone else would hate.

44,380 words into THE SHELL COLLECTOR. Well over halfway. I’m calling this a romance novel, but I have a feeling the readers of that genre will walk away disappointed. Because I have no clue what the hell I’m doing. But I’m loving every word of it.

My very rough estimate for a launch date is mid-October. But if this thing keeps writing itself the way it has been, it could be earlier than that. I just hope I can get David Gatewood to do the editing on this. And that he can make it through whatever the hell it is that I’m writing.

23 replies to “The Alluring Mess of my WIP”

My favorite thing to write is my Timecaster books. I think, out of everything I do, they are the most “me”. Utopian sci-fi, loaded with gadgets and sex and jokes and action.

They’re are also my worst-selling novels.

But how cool is it to be self-indulgent every once and a while?

I hold out hope that they’ll find their audience sometime before I die. If not, it doesn’t matter, because I’m still having a lot of fun.

What do you think readers won’t like about it? Not following the Romance genre rules? Unlikable main character? Or simply too hard to peg to a genre that it may have trouble finding its proper audience?

Diana Gabaldon seems to have landed on her feet breaking the traditional romance mold. There is always hope.

Replace the dystopian with fantasy elements, and I’ve got a trilogy like that nearly ready to go. Loved writing it, but may not love marketing it. Maybe it’s time to invent a new hybrid category or two: Rodystery? Mysrofance? Amazon would go for that, right? ;) Seems to have worked for the New Adult crowd.

When people ask what genre I write I tell them “Old Adult” or “Menopausal Urban Fantasy.” Always gets a big laugh. Not sure how useful it would be as a marketing category.

If I stuck to the standard urban fantasy conventions, I might be doing better initially. But I’m getting feedback from readers who don’t read in the genre and never thought they’d be interested in a story about magic and witches but who have fallen in love with the characters and the story. Because it’s also about aging and family and second chances and surviving loss and even if I never sell another copy it was worth writing for the things it helped me process emotionally and for the sheer joy of writing it. Marketing it is a little tricky, but I’m resonating with many readers in a way I wouldn’t be if I’d colored inside the genre lines. While you were writing them, did you have any expectations that readers who don’t read much science fiction (like me) would fall in love with a series of stories about love and loss and family set in giant post-apocalyptic underground bomb shelter? I don’t think we can guess what readers will hate anymore than we can guess what they’ll love.

I am intrigued as to how your story will turn out. You don’t need me to tell you, but I’ll say it anyway: write the story, and let the audience find it.

Don’t worry about what genre-sticklers might think. Some people in my writing clubs tel me, “Oh, you’re the guy writing the superhero stuff!” (Superheroine, actually.) “So who’s gonna draw it?” And/or, “So you’re doing young adult stuff!” (Holly is 25, NOT a teen!)

“Writing movies for demographics is just bullshit!” Bruce Campbell.

P.S. I have to admit that I am keeping little girls in mind while I am writing my latest story about a little girl with cat powers.

P.P.S. I bet it really helps that you are having fun with this story.

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear, Mr. Howey. What a pickle you’re landing yourself in, and of your own free will, too.

Don’t you understand that if you write outside of your genre straitjacket, you’ll foul up all of your sales numbers, you will break your uninterrupted string of successes, and then your Mighty Publisher will project the curve downwards all the way to zero, and drop you as a has-been? This is career suicide! You’ll never be able to get a publishing contract from You again!

(Yet another reason to treat the traditional publishing industry as an occasionally useful but dangerously dimwitted servant, and not as a master.)

It’s strangely freeing, though.

As a side-project to my current trilogy, I’m writing a post-apocalyptic western featuring an android anti-hero and a deranged Aussie antagonist.

I agree with Mr Konrath in saying: “I hold out hope that they’ll find their audience sometime before I die. If not, it doesn’t matter, because I’m still having a lot of fun.”

Heck, that’s one of the benefits of self-publishing. You can create crazy worlds without having to impress anybody. If they find their audience, great. If they never do, well, it was still worth the while.

:)

This is the freedom of the new way of publishing. I have over 30 little outlines collected over the years and I just realized I can ‘sci-fi’ any of them to suit my current writing. A story about a private eye down on his luck hired to kill someone and make it look like an accident…well, what if the guy he killed was an alien? A reporter witnesses an alien invasion and the beasts of myth, big foot and the lochness monster rise up to save the earth, I can even weave that into my current work. It makes no sense to those reading this right now, but because I am free to try anything, it might work in the bigger picture, lol.
What frees us most is knowing there is no editor or agent we must satisfy, we write what we like, and if we like it, others might also…..

Call it whatever you want, but genre readers will gut you like a bad fish if you disrepect them. It has nothing to do with your hatred for traditional publishers. It’s about the readers. If you have no interest in learning and appreciating the tropes of a particular category of fiction, fine. But don’t prance around it hoping to make money off the core readers while poking fun at what you consider to be their cliches. Example: Gabaldon is a romance author, whether she bitches about it or not. Her books were launched at the big RWA con back in the 1990s. I was there and got one of the first ARCs of Outlander from the massive stacks of giveaways. Romance readers built her empire.

Genre readers are deadly loyal but also seriously attuned to being treated like crap.

So write whatever you like, but don’t tell us you deserve to be the artiste while asking genre readers to spend their money on your non-genre book.

So write whatever you like, but don’t tell us you deserve to be the artiste while asking genre readers to spend their money on your non-genre book.

Right, because no writer ever had the ability to write in more than one genre.

Which is why Shakespeare, the sonnetist, had to be a totally different person from Shakespeare the writer of comedies, who was not Shakespeare the writer of tragedies, who was not Shakespeare the writer of historical plays.

And why Roald Dahl could not write both grisly horror stories for adults and fun adventure stories for children.

And why Anthony Burgess could not write both dystopian science fiction and mainstream comedy, to say nothing of poetry, screenplays, and literary criticism.

And why J. K. Rowling can never again write anything but Harry Potter books, such as Harry Potter and the Casual Vacancy or Harry Potter and the Cuckoo’s Calling.

Maybe Mr. Howey’s current work in progress will be unsuccessful; maybe it will even be no good. But you have absolutely no evidence on which to base such an assertion, for you haven’t read it. You have only your own foolish preconception that writers must be tied forever to one genre.

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I’d line up for a romance written by Hugh Howey. I loved the romantic elements in Wool. I think you’d do a great job.

And I think the market for alternative romance stories is opening up. It started with paranormal romance, and I think it’s going to branch out from there gradually. That’s what I hope anyway, since that’s what I write.

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