Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Black Rivers, White Thornes, and Other Novel News

I sure do seem to have a lot of works-in-progress!  But, at least until we get towards the back end of the year, 2017 is very much about just two of the however-many books I have at one stage or another, and about getting that pair finished and out the door.

First up, and the obvious one, there's the sequel to last year's The Black River Chronicles: Level One.  And the good news is, the first draft was basically a delight: I doubt there's ever going to come a point where writing a novel in under two months is less than a challenge, but this was as close as I expect to get, and a pleasure to boot.  There were so, so many things I wanted to accomplish with this book, and so many ideas that Mike and I kicked about, and I'm stunned to find that I feel like all of them are at least within reach: maybe not entirely there on the page just yet, but definitely waiting to be uncovered.

Sequels, I'm finding, are easier than beginnings, but that's not to say they're easy.  In this case, I had a whole laundry list of ways in which I wanted to move the groundwork of Level One forward: fresh arcs for Durren, Arein, Tia and Hule, and challenges that would really push them beyond their comfort zones; a new setting, complete with new characters; a greater sense of the Black River Chronicles world; more depth as to how magic works; and, of course, a ton of D&D jokes, because I can't imagine a day when D&D jokes aren't the lifeblood of this series.  The result is, I hope, a book that will follow on in exciting ways for anyone who's read the first but works just fine on its own - which, again, isn't exactly all that easy to pull off.  Anyway, there are a couple of drafts to go yet, and who knows what will change in the process?  Still, there's a great deal to be said for a successful first draft, given how, with the smallest of mistakes, they can go so horribly wrong; getting things more or less right on the first try always feels to me a little like avoiding a twenty car pile-up by the skin of my teeth.

White Thorne, my (in retrospect, stupidly overambitious) medieval, magical realist crime thriller, has been an altogether different prospect - but the news, somehow, is still rosy.  The first draft was soul-crushing and heartbreaking, as I tried to juggle too many balls and had to watch helplessly as half of them went flying about the room, smashing valuable ornaments and causing a few nasty concussions.  But, you know, one of the brilliant things about writing under your own steam is that you can keep at your work until you get it right.  In this case, that meant a long break, advice from some wise and trusted friends and then digging away over a six month period: really, digging is the absolutely best word.  That first draft felt like I'd managed to bury the intriguing plot and distinctive characters and months of historical research in my head beneath an inordinate amount of crud.  And the second became an exercise in aggressive archaeology, sometimes with a trowel but frequently with an excavator; by the end, I'd cut an entire novella's worth of wordage.

Over the summer I'll be returning for a third and (I hope) final draft, in which I'll mostly be trying to restore the polish to a book that's no doubt pretty raw and beaten-up from the brutality of our last go around.  And then, I guess, I'll have to starting thinking about trying to sell the thing.  Which, fortunately, isn't a worry with The Black River Chronicles: Mysterious Secret Title That I Can't Announce Yet But That Definitely Isn't Level Two, which I guess is yet another advantage of sequels.  You can expect that one before the end of the year - by which time I'm hopeful that all the stuff that's good right now will be really, really good.

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