The Voidstrider books seem like they’re taking me longer to write with each installment. Partly that’s down to my employment status. I was self-employed and worked from my home office when I wrote the first one. I have a “day job” (that mostly takes place at night) these days.
A less boring reason is that the saga grows more complex as it continues. Volume one had four principal point of view characters. That number has grown over the course of the series to something like ten, depending on how strictly I define “principal” point of view. The first book followed its characters in two or three main settings, with one or two scenes here and there in additional locations. At this point in the tale, I’m juggling events on and around Earth, Mars, three asteroid belt settlements, and a space station in the vicinity of Saturn. And it’s about to become astronomically more complicated over the course of volumes 4 and 5.
(Pretty sure I’ve said before, but the plan is for nine volumes. And there is a definite plan, but a lot of the how-we-get-from-here-to-there is extremely malleable.)
The complexity leads to a secondary problem. Revisions are honestly my favorite stage of the writing process, but there’s one aspect of editing/revising at which I’m an abysmal failure. I find structural edits and plot adjustments incredibly difficult. Tweaking sentence structure, clarity, dialogue, pacing and chapter order … these things come naturally, more or less. Altering plot beats – changing what happened – is much harder. The best way I can explain it is this: once I’ve written it, that’s what happened. I might move it around and say it happened earlier or later than I originally thought, or maybe show it from a different point of view than I originally wrote, or possibly interpret the event a bit differently, but what I can’t seem to do is travel back in time and pursue a different future. My thought machine just won’t let me do it most of the time.
This means I spend a ridiculous amount of time plotting. I don’t do outlines. Most of it’s in my head, and I have a single composition notebook about a third of the way full of the wriggly bits I can’t hold in my brain. But I’m holding a lot in my brain, and I go through it over and over. Tweak it, run it again. Take it from the top. It has to be perfect before we roll camera.
Plot beats evolve as I run through them over and over, move on to another only to come back, piece them together, move them around, imagine the movie playing out in my head.
And sometimes I have to make a major change.
I knew the basic story of Voidstrider 4 before I had more than a rough idea of 3. Mainly because volume 3 closed out (most of) the arcs comprising the first act or phase of the saga, whereas 4 opens up the next act and introduces the next phase of the story. Maybe it would be simpler to say that, back when I started, I knew what would happen in books 1, 4, 7, and 9.
A major plot beat in the fourth volume, for which I had detailed plans as far back as 2016, involved angry but misguided Martian citizens storming their world’s capital. And I’m finding that I can’t write it now. At least, definitely not as originally planned. For several reasons I’m not going to get into, but largely thanks to a traumatic day many of us watched live on our televisions with mounting horror.
I’ve spent a lot of time thinking over the past year or so about how I’m gonig to tackle this. Essentially, one of the three main plot beats I’d had planned out for years is pretty much unusable now. Can I change it enough that it can still work? I doubt it. Do I scrap it completely? Probably. What the hell can take its place? Remains to be seen.
But I think I’ve got a solid handle on it at last. I’ve been tinkering with other sections of the story this whole time, and much progress has been made, but so much else in the book is connected to that one event, I could only do so much. I think we’re back on track now. I’ll have to run through it a few more times. Because, much like reality, once a thing has happened, it always happened.
Hm. Might be layers to that statement.
Anyway. Back to work for me. Cheers.