Some notes on Always Outnumbered Never Outgunned, specifically. I'm now around halfway through the project, assuming we have a 250K word length. For perspective, that's the same word length I originally projected for Flight of the Vajra, but I blew that out by 100K, so my word on how long this thing gets will be worth exactly what you paid for it.
Last night I was talking with a friend about why this book has turned into such an effort. It's ironic that it has, because it was originally supposed to be a fast-moving escape hatch from another project that was threatening to become morose and somber and, well, dull. This isn't to say AONO has become any of those things — it does move fast and strike hard, but getting it to accomplish such goals has been excruciatingly tough.
The reason for all this struggle isn't complicated. It's just me trying to do something I've not really had much direct experience with before. Thriller/crime-type stories are hard to get right, because they have to be well-oiled machines that never give the audience an excuse to stop believing in them. It's all the harder when you have such a story with what amount to SF/F elements, and which are being played off in a way that is — hope you'll excuse the potential pretentiousness of this statement — spiritual and psychological in nature rather than just for the sake of a neat twist.
Never once in my life, when I chose a project, did I choose one because it was the easy or comfortable thing to do. I've always chosen projects that lay at least half outside my comfort zone — one foot in the things I know and am at ease with, and another foot out where there be dragons. Otherwise, I couldn't claim to be making any real progress. I never wanted to repeat myself.
Most of the way I talk about this comes by way of saying things like, this is why I don't write sequels to any of my projects. But it's not just about choosing the right dimensions for a given project (although that is a big part of it); it's about whether or not the project actually affords me an opportunity to do any real growth in the first place. I am not all that interested in writing a techno-thriller, for instance, because there's very little in such a space that I can see leveraging as a way to talk about the things I'm most genuinely interested in as a creator. Maybe there is and I just haven't seen it yet, but between then and now there's a ton of other stories not in that space that ought to afford me far more to work with that's more properly up my alley.
Something else I have to emphasize. These are metrics for progress that I hold just to myself, not to anyone else. Even if I had a best friend whom I'd known all my life and could speak intimately of his creative processes, I still wouldn't be able to apply this rule to them. This is a yardstick I use solely to gauge my own development.
The one risk that does come to mind is whether I end up going in circles — going back over territory that only looks new because I've been away from it for so long. So far I haven't seen that happen, but do sound the alarm for me if it seems like I am, would you?