New Beginnings

Between sickness, cold, and trips, I haven’t hiked since early January. So it was an intense pleasure to be outside tromping through the woods again. Apparently the natural world thinks it is spring. The trees are in bloom. Birds and toads sing into the quiet forest. I didn’t see any snakes yet, so perhaps we have a few more weeks before they emerge. But they can’t be far behind the toads.

Hiking is inspiration for me. I spent the hike contemplating which character to give a novel to. I’ve narrowed it down to two characters: Tzipporah, my first century Jewish Alexandrian assassin (historical fiction); and Chloris, my hyper-competent detective/philosopher who lives in Argosy, a city of ships in the ancient Mediterranean (historical fantasy).

They are quite different. Tzipporah makes all sorts of wrong choices and even when she succeeds, she fails. Chloris is more of a classic hero who generally succeeds, often with a humorous twist. Argosy stories are lighter and funnier than Tzipporah’s adventures.

It is really a matter of who I want to spend approximately 80,000 words with. Michael Anderle and others advocate an idea called Minimal Viable Product. Here is the definition from 20booksto50k:

It is a development technique in which a new product (book/series) is developed with sufficient features (content/hooks) to satisfy early adopters (new readers). Additional, enhanced features (further books and content) are only created and developed after considering feedback from the initial products’ (reader magnet or first-book-in-series’) users (readers). It’s a technique you can use to develop your writing and produce stories that you know your readers want to read.

Basically you write the beginning (3,000-10,000 words) to see if readers want to continue on. Then you either fix the problems and continue with it or abandon it if it doesn’t look viable. I am considering using this method to decide between Tzipporah and Chloris. If I give each of them the beginning to their book, perhaps I’ll learn which one grabs readers and which one I want to spend time with. Also it sounds more productive than incessantly thinking about it.

It would be fun to arrange a cage match between Tzipporah and Chloris, though I suspect that Tzipporah would win. She’s just more intense. Plus she is a trained assassin, while Chloris is trained in philosophy.

May your spring be filled with birds and flowers and may you find a pleasant new beginning to your work. Be well, friends.

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