After some time away from the project (it's amazing what fresh eyes can do!), I realized that the Sightwitch drafts I'd written were actually pretty good. The problem wasn't that I was telling the Wrong Story, the problem was that I was telling it at the WRONG TIME. No matter how I tell the tale or what events unfold, Sightwitch simply wasn't going to be the right prelude to Truthwitch.
But holy moly, it sure WOULD work as a companion novella after Truthwitch is already out.
It's sort of like A Dawn Most Wicked. That's a great story and I'm wildly proud of it, but I don't think readers should start with it. The significance of the stories and the characters mean so, so, so much more when taken in the context of Something Strange & Deadly.
Realizing this was, well...frustrating. For one, I'd spent SO MUCH TIME trying to make this story sing. For two, I'd made all sorts of promises to readers, to my team at Tor, to my agent, and to myself. The last thing I wanted to do was admit "defeat."
But after a few days of really poking at this idea (the idea of doing Sightwitch after Truthwitch), I realized it wasn't defeat at all. Admitting that 2015 isn't the right year for Sightwitch is just plain good sense. And, after talking it over with my agent, she's in total agreement.
Which leads to...
Question #2: What are your CAREER goals? And will this particular project achieve those goals?
My career goal was to enter into the world of self-publishing with Sightwitch. I love the idea of being a hybrid author, and I'd hoped to take that step with my novella.
But there's a big problem with that: self-publishing has changed in the past few months. Majorly.
I mean, it has always been a constantly changing game. What worked to draw in readers a few months ago is guaranteed to not work now--and self-publishers pride themselves on thinking fast and constantly innovating. Lately, though, indie publishing has actually reached a point where even new strategies aren't making a difference. There are, quite simply, too many books out there. More books than there are readers (last I heard, the figure was around 3500 new books PER DAY). As such, trying to stand out as a new self-pubbed author...Well, it's just not feasible anymore.
So, although I still like the idea of self-publishing, now is NOT the time for it. Big changes are afoot, and I need to see where those changes go before I step in. My chances for self-publishing success are MUCH higher if I self-pub the novellas after I have a built-in, waiting audience from Truthwitch.
Question #3: Are you suffering from story burnout?
This is probably the most frustrating piece of the "let it go and move on" puzzle because you have to decide if you're truly burned out or just being lazy/hitting a story wall.
To make this question easier, you should definitely answer it LAST. After all, if questions 1 & 2 are "yes" then #3 probably won't matter--you'll need to move on to a different project anyway.
But, if you decided that you AREN'T suffering from burnout and you just ADORE the story, well...then you might decide that questions 1 & 2 simply don't matter. You want to finish this story no matter what.
With Sightwitch, I was definitely suffering burnout. You see, the latest draft I wrote is...well...it needs to be rewritten. Not because the story is broken (I'm actually happy with it despite all the holes and flaws) but because Truthwitch has changed so dramatically in revisions that the set-up I'd written into Sightwitch no longer works.
The thought of rewriting Sightiwtch for the bazillionth time is too disheartening to even face right now. I'd rather come back to it in a year--once Truthwitch and book 2 (Windwitch) are finished. Then I'll know things are set in stone and can fit in Sightwitch accordingly.
(Note: this is why I always tell people NOT to write a sequel until they've finished all revisions on the first book. Some seemingly tiny change can have huge consequences, and no one likes to throw out a solid, finished draft.)
So there you have it guys. Those are the questions I asked myself + the answers that went along with them.
And as much as I might feel like this is defeat, I know it's not really. It's just pivoting and taking these latest publishing punches in stride. :)