Musings on my next novel project.

Earlier I wrote and posted about my “a short novel every three months” plan which sort of hit a snag in May. Not to worry, I’ll just move on. It’s not like I write for a living (a point I’ll touch on in a future post).

So, here’s where I’m up to regarding my August novel attempt, learning from my experiences of the last 10 months:

It has a working title. This makes it easier to talk about. Until someone comes up with a better idea I’ll be calling it “Combat Story (working title)”. As it is set in the same world as “Minding Tomorrow”, and deals with vision rather than memory I thought giving it the working title of “Blinding Tomorrow” and the third novel in the sequence “Finding Tomorrow” or something. But I think that would be a bit confusing.

I’ve decided to write a story idea that I’ve had for a looooong time. It’s been in my head so long that:
– some of the main ideas in “Minding Tomorrow” were actually first meant for “Combat Story”, like the viewsers and some of the brain imaging technology. And more besides, but that would spoil both novels.
– it features two characters from my first ever novel, a non-SF murder mystery, though they are minor characters in this story.
– knowing that the events of “Combat Story” happen in the same universe as “Minding Tomorrow”, I made sure to write them into that story too.
– this means that “Minding Tomorrow” features characters from “Combat Story” and vica versa, though only in minor and mysterious roles.

In the spirit of the “write what you know” rule, I’ve decided that juggling is going to feature in this story.

This novel is not a sequel, it is more of a companion novel. A reader could read either “Minding Tomorrow” or “Combat Story” first, and it won’t spoil the other.

Also, it is going to be a different style… a more direct narrative, and a lot more action. It could even be classed as military SF, but I’m thinking more along the lines of “near future, hard science fiction, action heavy, techno-thriller” vibe.

To make sure I know exactly what is happening, I’ve made notes. A LOT of notes. About the plot, characters, ideas, everything. I’ve listed all the scenes, and what needs to happen in each. I mean, I’m up to about 6,000 words of notes, and I still have a few thousand more to go before I’m set. When I start writing in a few days time I’ll be able to hit the ground running.

Unlike “Monster Story (working title)”, where I didn’t name any characters (I don’t like naming things), and instead used place holders like AAAA, BBBB, etc, this time I’ve given all the characters names from the start. The names may change, but I hope they’ll lead to some interesting character moments

I plan for “Combat Story” to be longer than my other two completed novels. I’m not sure of the exact length, but it might clock in at 70,000 words.

Instead of focusing on word count, I’m going to focus on scenes/chapters. Each day I’ll write a scene. Or two. I actually have between forty and fifty scenes, but I know some of those aren’t needed, and I know new scenes will present themselves as I progress. Like in “Monster Story”, a line in my notes like “Two characters do X” would take four chapters, and a huge stretch of notes about what information needed to be shared with the reader would be CONDENSED by the time it got into the story. I’ll just have to busk this as I go along.

To keep myself honest, I’ll still be keeping track of my word count, and aim for about 1,500 per day. I might even post word count updates on twitter, so my followers can bug me if I skip a day. Unless it pisses them off.

Anyway, I’m really looking forward to the new adventure. I know by putting the work in up-front, it will take a lot less editing afterward. Judging by initial feedback for “Monster Story” I think I’m getting to the point where my stories are more suitable for release a lot quicker than before. Maybe, if I’m happy with it, I could get it out before the end of the year.

And who knows, if I do a NaNoWriMo novel in November, and release that story quickly too (another story I’ve had in my mind for years), I might release four novels within a year. This time last year I’d never believe that to be possible for a non-full-time writer, but here I am giving it a good shot.

“Novel-Fading” – a learning experience.

In November I wrote a short novel, “Minding Tomorrow”. Then I took two months off the actual writing to edit it and think about the next novel.

In February I wrote a novella, “Monster Story (working title)”. Then I took two months off to keep editing novel number one, and do a bit of editing on number two.

In May I wrote 25,000 words of a planned 60,000 word novel, “Human Danger (working title)”. I didn’t finish it, even though I kept writing into June. The reasons:

  • The first two stories had been very clear in my head in terms of plot, characters, ideas, technology, and themes for many years each. I’ve thought about them as movie plots, TV shows, comics, and computer games alongside the novels they finally became.

    However, in May I decided to have a go at a story idea that really wasn’t fully developed. I’ve actually had it in my head for much longer than the others, and many of the science fiction elements are stronger. My main problem is that the characters and final plot direction were sort of lacking. I thought “If I just start writing, these will come to me!”

    It turns out they did come to me, but really slowly. It was at about word 23,500 that I thought “Oh! Now I know what I’m writing!”

    In other words, I’d spent a month writing when I should have spent a month thinking.

  • Another reason I stopped was because the pace was really dragging. Instead of working in an unbounded universe created entirely by myself, this novel is based on existing work. I had to constantly look through reference material at every step, to make sure I was keeping everything straight. And I knew that a lot of this picky detail would be edited out afterward, but I didn’t know WHAT would stay or go.

    I thought that working from an established reference point would help me write quickly, so thought 2,000 words a days would be possible. It turned out that I was struggling to get 1,000 words per day.

  • Finally, I wasn’t strict enough with myself. Instead of saying “I must write 1,500 words each day, and if I miss a day I need to catch up by the end of the month” I lapsed into “If I don’t write one day, that’s fine, I’ll only count the days I DO write, and I know it will take longer than just May, and I can keep revising my word count goal downwards as it gets trickier…”

    This resulted in me just not writing anything on a day which I felt uninspired or didn’t have enough time to write a good chunk, instead of just bashing out as many words as possible.

My plan with “Human Danger (working title)” is to put it on the back burner for a while. It was certainly a learning experience, so it wasn’t entirely wasted effort. I’ll file it with the four other quarter-finished novels sitting on my hard drive, think about it for another six months, and re-start it again next February.

Then I had two months off… in which I released “Minding Tomorrow” and continued editing “Monster Story (working title)” (seriously, I need to come up with a better title for that one, suggestions in the comments).

Which brings me to my planned August novel… which I’ll write about tomorrow, I’ve got to go get ready for a juggling show now.

Oh, the title references “Pod-fading”, the act of letting your podcast fade away, leaving a series of podcast episodes with no real end point.