A land forged from the fires of strife, blood of heroes, and touch of the gods.
Where deeds of great valor, vile evils, and blazing passions intertwine
to shape the course of elven and human history within.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

The Long and Winding Road

With some last-minute revisions and a lot of ritual hair-pulling, the final art for Secrets of the Second Sun is complete and the files have been uploaded to the publisher. With a bit of luck (of the good variety for a change), I might see books in time for the convention Memorial Day weekend (this year, not next) and have a chance to debut the book on time.
But that isn't the subject of this post.
It's time to go back to work. Kaanan's Way has languished for months as I toiled to complete SotSS and now, as said in a previous article (years ago, it seems), I need to re-invigorate myself and get busy on this story again.
I'm fortunate to have friends who continue to encourage me to keep writing; I guess that means they enjoy my stuff or just get a good laugh watching me work so hard. I think I'll go with the former. And in that group of friends I have many eyes willing to peruse the chapters and offer suggestions (or demand revisions, take your pick) and generally give me guidance on whether or not this or that idea is working in the context of the story.
Kaanan's Way will be the fourth book of the series and the question was asked recently "do readers have to read the entire series to know what's going on?". This is the dilemma of any writer who sets out to build a history of the world in which adventures take place. As stories build upon one another it becomes more important to know what has gone before in order to understand what is to come. And this is a real challenge to writers who take this path.
Books in a series must be strong enough to stand on their own merits; that is, the story must be self-contained and not depend so much on what has been written that a reader is lost if they pick up Book Four first and not Book One. This requires the author to integrate enough information early in the story to fill in the gaps and provide information in a manner the reader is not continually questioning the events taking place. And it's a tough task in a lot of ways. The author must balance re-telling with new-telling and integrate the details from before into the here-and-now. I find conversations between characters a good way to do this, rather than narrative. All of us, from time to time when talking with friends, reminisce and recount our own stories; the old "hey, remember the time we...". That sort of thing. Still, it's a balance that must be done with care, or the author will end up with a first chapter that is nothing but reminders. Not a good way to entice readers to keep reading.
So my advice, through the time-tested trial and error method, is to put together an outline, or just write some sample scenes or paragraphs.  Be gentle in your reminders of the tales that went before.  Give the reader time to integrate the new stuff with the old stuff and your story will blend together as a whole much more smoothly.

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