So last month, July, I decided to try to focus on writing. The goal was to try to get a new novel written before the end of the month. According to my calendar, I started on July 9th. I made reasonably good progress for about a week, and then my undisciplined nature began rearing its ugly head and progress slowed. Days would go by without writing anything. Writing a single chapter sometimes took several days instead of a few hours. I know I can write quickly, and during the first week of work I was estimating that I should be able to finish the first draft in under two weeks, second draft, layout, cover design, copy editing, and the rest done by the end of the month, and maybe have the new book submitted to my printer by August 1st.
Alas, it is now August 12th and I am only 120 pages into a manuscript I’m aiming for 300 pages with. And while I almost never know where one of my books is going until it gets there, the nagging feeling that I don’t know where this book is going just keeps pounding away at the inside of my mind. A couple of weeks ago I noticed that the book has no conflict. No antagonist. No plot, that I am aware of, so far. This is not a new problem; most of what I write seems to have these [features|problems]. Dragons’ Truth didn’t really have a plot, an antagonist, or much in the way of meaningful conflict until chapters 13 and 14 (of 15) – and many readers agree with me that it doesn’t really have a good ending; it just stops, after an anticlimactic confrontation of only words. Lost and Not Found has four main stories in it, none of which have any real conflict or antagonist beyond the protagonist’s internal struggles and a couple of catty women who serve as little more than a foil to same. The Untrue Tales series was my attempt to write what I thought people wanted, and is chock full of conflict, sex, and a wide variety of antagonists — and frankly, I don’t like writing it, much, though there are several more books required to finish what I’ve started there.
This new novel is actually set in the same world as Lost and Not Found, and one of its main characters is featured prominently in the first couple dozen pages of that book. Everyone else is new. The setting is new. The theme may very well be the same, though I am not the best judge of such things – in my books or in anyone else’s. If you’ve read Lost and Not Found (which is available at modernevil.com as a free eBook in, like, eight different eBook formats -including the Kindle, if you own one- so what’s your excuse for not reading it? Paying is just one of your options), the story starts with Paul, who was predicting a sort of a doomsday at the beginning of Lost and Not Found. If you read the whole book, you’ll see that his doomsday comes, right on schedule – in a way. This book follows Paul, shows where he went to try to escape that world-changing event, and the lives of some of the other people who survived it and who live where he retreated to. Since some of Lost and Not Found’s timeline overlaps this new book’s timeline (and some occurs years later) and most of the characters are not (at least, not yet) in this book, I’m wary to call it a sequel. But it’s definitely in the same world.
Okay, a little more info about that: In early drafts of the book which turned into Lost and Not Found, there was another section after what is currently the end of that book. Like, twenty-two thousand words. After leaving Haven, ten years after the main story of Lost and Not Found, the main characters travel on to a flying city called Skythia and take up residence. They find Paul living there, among other things. That part of the story was cut out -in its entirety- from Lost and Not Found. This new book takes place in between the first section of Lost and Not Found (ie: the last place we hear about Paul in that book) and the section that was cut. So far, we’re within a few months’ time, so nowhere near the point where Lost and Not Found’s main characters would enter the story – though I won’t rule that out at this point, since I have no idea where this story is going.
Anyway, mentally, the presence of Skythia in a part of Lost and Not Found that was cut completely puts a few restraints on what can happen in this novel. Not in a bad way, necessarily. More like, I know vaguely where Paul -and Skythia- will be in ten years, as though this was all something that had actually happened and I’m merely documenting it with these books. Maybe I’ll work the cut part of that book into the end of this one. Maybe I’ll start a future sequel with it. Maybe it’ll remain cut out forever (or until I’ve died and someone decides to publish a new “more complete” version of Lost and Not Found containing the “lost ending” … bleh. Oooh, or maybe when I feel I’ve got enough readers that it would be profitable to put out such an edition, like the ‘anniversary’ editions of The Princess Bride with a new foreward here and a new chapter five years later and a new cover and a new afterward ten years later and so on…). Any way it ends up, the presence of that part of the story in my mind, in the universe of my imagination, creates a constraint on this novel. Even if I introduce the supervillain character I’ve been trying to wedge in, the city cannot be destroyed (not without being rebuilt) and Paul cannot be killed (not without being resurrected) nor politically ruined (I’m not telling). The utopian nature of Skythia and the basics of their government cannot change significantly. Et cetera, et cetera.
So, that’s what I’m not writing right now. It doesn’t yet have a title, but it does have zombies, robots, a utopian flying city, drama, politics, many fantasy races (elves, faeries, Kwytzwyk, centaur, &c.), ooh, and maybe dinosaurs soon. I’m not sure when it’ll be done, but I’m now trying to aim for it to come out in paperback around the same time the Podiobook release of the Lost and Not Found audiobook is complete.