First: Joey Shoji has mentioned here and elsewhere that there’s a cover for Silence posted elsewhere on-line, but only in thumb-nail. I will be doing a post — and uploading the cover image — later this week; possibly later today, depending on how the writing goes.
And now onto the report:
Cast in Peril is off to my editor at Luna; I finished and submitted it late last night.
Peril was difficult for me, in part because I realized at about 130k words that there was no way the events in the West March were going to be resolved in one book unless I threw away most of the 130k words I’d written by that point – because, well, there weren’t nearly enough words left. Unfortunately, most of those words are plot, and are required for the events in the West March. I phoned my editor, we talked, and after much discussion, she said “Yes, you can write two West March books, but only if there is a reasonable and satisfying arc that is self-contained in Peril.“ I returned to Peril. I revised Peril. I restructured Peril, and now, it is in the hands of my editor.
War is not yet done. I have 160k words, and it is not closing in on the end, but it is going well — for a variety of well that frequently involves hair-pulling.
Touch, the second book in The Queen of the Dead trilogy, is in progress. That’s the book I started over, when I realized that it had to be from an entirely different viewpoint, and it follows Silence.
And that is it for me. I will be continuing to work on War and Touch.
Meanwhile, the web-designer is now working on translating the mock-up of her design to an actual web-site, which will relaunch sometime in the near-future, which is exciting (at least for me!). I asked, a while ago, for opinions about web-sites, usability, and etc., and the end results should reflect some of that advice.
A little bit of a process coda (and the usual disclaimer, that no two writers have the same process and that I can speak emphatically only about my own):
If there was one thing I would teach myself, it would be the relation between story and length. Other writers, other professional writers, can and do come within natural striking distance of the word-length they’re given. Regularly. It sometimes makes me feel like I still haven’t found big-girl pants =/.
I always start out thinking “this will be short”. Sometimes it’s more of a prayer, but you get the general idea. I have good intentions. I tell myself this will be the book in which I come in at the right length.
Silence is, in fact, under 100k words. But it’s under 100k words in large part because it takes place in the here-and-now and the setting isn’t an issue in the same way it is for secondary worlds. The strangeness of Silence is entirely in the situation & the characters, at least until the second book. But this incredible success at finally writing something that is marketable length obviously went to my head.
So: a bit about story and Michelle.
I always think “this will be short” because the kernel of the story, in my mind’s eye, is easily grasped (usually because it’s the end). It’s easily written in a paragraph or less; it is entirely what it is and it feels contained.
Getting to that point, however– building the story that resonates with that kernel, is never completely predictable. Ever. Elements of story rearrange and reinvent themselves in my subconscious, introducing factors that add to, and strengthen, the whole — but all of these take actual words on the page. Sometimes it’s conversations. I have a very long conversation (between Jarven and Finch) in War; I think, at the moment, it is my favorite thing in the book. But if you asked me how long it would be before I started writing it, I would have said it would be half its current length – at a maximum.
Add to that the elements of the world that exist in the background that suddenly and inexplicably enter the foreground in ways that a) feel completely true and b) are not going to make your book any shorter or any less complicated (in Skirmish that would be almost everything that happens from chapter five on). The only thing I have found that works to kill this type of length is to immediately delete the written words and start again in a more orderly fashion. In the case of Skirmish, mentioned here because it is much on my mind, I couldn’t. I could not do it. Because sometimes the story as it unfolds on the page is the story. It wasn’t exactly what was planned, but it is viscerally, emotionally true.
So at some point, “this is going to be short” turns into “this might be long” and that turns into “OMG I AM DOOMED”. It’s like clockwork.
And if you remind me, after Peril is out in the wild and discussion will not be spoiling, I will tell you exactly where all the length was, and why it wasn’t immediately obvious to me that it would be long.