Dearest readers: I have emerged from the singularity called Alorin to discover that six months have passed since I last updated you on the progress of book five (a fact which more than many of you have recently pointed out). I guess it’s time for an update.
First, let me assure you that I am actually writing book five. I am not therefore using my writing time to produce television shows, run charities promulgated by my vast popularity or develop board games—not that I am suggesting these would not be admirable and legitimate ways for an author to spend his or her workdays.
In the intervening months since the last thunderous clamoring for an update dragged my head out of…wherever it had been to answer up to a charge of negligence, I have added another hundred and fifty pages to the completed pile for book five, bringing the grand total to somewhere in the range of 400-ish pages. For many authors, this would be a completed manuscript. For me it equates to barely half a book.
I’m not updating the little chart that I included in my November post because it would only dishearten you, and I’d have at least half of you asking what the hell those 150 completed pages actually represented, because barely anything seems to have changed on the chart.
Mainly that 150 pages represents the first half of the book with Trell, Tannour and Loukas. Adding to the other chapters already finished, I’ve completed the first half with Ean, Tanis, Pelas, Darshan, Isabel, Björn, Trell, Tannour, Loukas, Alshiba and some new characters like Baelfeir, who crosses paths with other characters I won’t specify to avoid spoiling my own story.
That still leaves a lot of work to be done writing Carian, Franco, Vaile, Alyneri, Fynn, Gydryn, Sebastian and Queen Errodan. My fear is that by the time I finish writing those story threads, we’ll have another half a book sitting there, and then that’s it for book five. Which doesn’t really work, see. I’ve got to continue a lot of the first set of storylines through the second half of the book also. Not to mention somehow clue you in on what's happening with Marius, Phaedor, Felix, Nadia and Valentina. And Shail, Dore, Niko and collaborators.
So there are some vexing issues to be solved yet with this book. Like how I’m going to fit in everyone’s story thread and still have a cohesive story that falls somewhere on the shorter side of War and Peace.
So far, none of you have complained about the length of my books. So, that’s a plus. But it starts getting difficult to hold a book in your hands when it weighs ten pounds (speaking to those of us who still read the printed word on actual paper). While this is something I ponder (read: have nightmares about), it obviously isn’t the deciding factor on how long the book will be. The story itself dictates that.
Which brings me to the real holdup on getting this book finished: it’s really damned complicated. I don’t know what I was thinking, imagining I could finish this story with only one more book. I can’t even get everyone into only one more book.
I’m in the process of trying to figure out what storylines to include in this book and which ones will have to wait for book six. GRRM and RJ both hit this point. I remember being exceptionally irritated with Jordan after he left Mat buried under a wall at the end of book seven and then not even taking us back to find out what happened to Mat until book nine (we’re talking Wheel of Time here, in case any of you have somehow not read Jordan’s series). But that was three or four years or something that I (and everyone else) spent wondering if Mat had even survived.
So while I don’t want to do that to all of you, it is getting increasingly difficult to cram everyone’s story threads into a single book. I’m very interested in your feedback and thoughts on this, actually.
For example, I’m sure all of you would rather read about Trell than Dore Madden, but there wouldn’t be much conflict, tension (or frustration) in the story without Dore. Not that we’ll be spending inordinate amounts of time with Mr. Madden, because even I can only handle him in small doses. But my point is, I have to follow the character threads that most drive the plot forward, and sometimes fan favorites have to take a sideline to forward progress. (Don’t worry, there’s plenty of Trell in this book).
Hopefully you see my point, though. Whose storyline can wait and whose can’t? This question hounds me constantly as I’m conceiving of plot ideas and writing each character’s thread. I’m also asking myself which conflicts I can finish off in this book, as in resolve, because that’s part of the issue: there are just too many wars going on (or about to break out). There isn’t time to deal with all of them in one book.
It’s presenting something of a challenge. (To be honest, I feel like the book is the Hulk slamming me around like Loki in The Avengers. Challenge doesn’t really begin to describe it.)
But in the bag are some very fun chapters. Ean is going to do some fantastically cool things in this book. Likewise Tanis. And of course, Trell is Trell. I’m excited for you to read about their adventures, and for you to meet the new characters. I’ll be looking forward to your feedback on the Lord of All Warlocks, especially. But then, I have something of a soft spot for my immortals, no matter their ethical inclinations.
So that’s where things stand: not finished yet but making progress.
As a note for those of you who haven't read much about my writing process, when I finish a chapter, I consider it completed. Maybe I'll do some minor edits as I head into the final editing process once all chapters are written, but I don't do rewrites or “first draft, second draft,” etc. I have to get everything right the first time through or I simply can't continue with the story. So once I finish writing a chapter…it's basically final. When I then say I have 400 pages done, that's essentially 400 pages of a finished story.
Let me know your thoughts on my question about pushing some story threads to book six if you have an opinion one way or another.
And thank you, as always, for the gentle reminders that, yeah, you’re waiting ever-so-patiently for the next book in my series, too.