I've been spending the past few days pondering my options as a writer, and making the mental adjustment that a book that's consumed a year of my life is destined to spend a little longer--indeed, perhaps eternity--on my hard drive. Not only that, the rejection of The Last Free City probably marks the end of my Mondia sequence of novels, given the commercial reasons which drove Macmillan's decision.
I despise the kind of happy-clappy facile positive thinking that views every setback as a blessing in disguise. In this case, though, there's no question that this enforced change in direction is not without its beneficial aspects. Having a novel rejected in a way that undermines the entire series forces a serious re-evaluation of my writing goals; and I've been exploring that topic with Will.
So here are the avenues open to the just-rejected fantasy writer -
No siree! We don't want none of them potatoes!
Write another, better Mondia novel
This is the easiest option - up until the point where I try to publish ithe result I'm very clear that there's no appetite at Tor to see another Mondia novel. If I can place The Last Free City somewhere else, I can readily enough revisit Mondia in the future. Until that point, another foray into Mondia would be commercially ill-advised in already difficult market.
Start a new fantasy series
This would give me a fresh start in a genre I know I can write. With a better knowledge of the market I might be better placed to write something that will sell.
Migrate to a new genre
Before MNW picked up The Dog of the North, I was resolved that it would be my last attempt at a fantasy novel. I grew up reading fantasy, but these days it forms a smaller and smaller part of my diet. I can see now that this is reflected in my development as a writer: with hindsight, The Last Free City is hardly fantasy at all.
If Macmillan had picked up The Last Free City it's unlikely that I would have gone through the rigorous examination of my strengths and interests as a writer as I did over the weekend. There is a certain kind of story I love to write - it will contain individual dramas played out against backgrounds of political intrigue, with morally ambiguous characters facing difficult choices with real consequences; it will be set in a place exotic to the reader, where nothing is quite as it seems. What I'm talking about here is, in fact, a better fit with historical fiction than fantasy. Have I been a closet hist-fic all along?
In truth, I've suspected as much for a while. Now, driven by necessity, I may need to prove it. Moving genres is a challenge - especially into one as exacting as historical fiction. Will has been very encouraging, and indeed is keener to see my ideas in this area than any other.
Looks like I'm going to need to dust off my research skills....