I think things. Then I write about them. It's the narcissism, you see.

Monday, August 31, 2015

What the New Book Isn't

In the spirit of getting some connection back to what this blog haltingly started as, some ongoing commentary as I write my second book. Updates at least weekly. Hopefully it’ll be interesting. If not, well, I blame the narcissism.

I self-published my first book almost two years ago: November 2013. Before The Loyalty of Pawns had been published I started writing my second book which, naturally, was the follow-up to the book I was publishing. It was the only logical choice; The Loyalty of Pawns’ epilogue is a short collection of character vignettes that serves no story purpose. And of course there’s only one reason to do that: to shamelessly leave threads to make readers curious about the follow-up. After all, you don’t throw out question-asking character threads unless you know what you’re doing with them, right?

Don’t answer that.

So there it was; I’d laid groundwork for my next book so I already had a leg up. There was nothing but smooth sailing ahead. Except for the problem that The Loyalty of Pawns was never conceived as having a follow-up. At all.

The Loyalty of Pawns as an idea spawned before I was even in high school. I was in a phase of wanting to make comic books along with my best friend at the time. Why did the two of us not end up as comic book moguls? It turns out that most twelve year olds aren’t fantastic artists. For a while the two of us, having outgrown those childish super hero comics, were marveling at Akira and other examples of contained finite stories. The Loyalty of Pawns story was going to be the first long-running arc in a series called Beyond.

Like I said—we were twelve.

The idea was that new stories would follow that first one, all of them taking place in the same world but not necessarily sharing characters. I did, however, envision a sensational title for the series’ second story: “The Trial of Jameson Masters.” Apparently even then I knew that character was an asshole.

Fast forward to two years ago. I have the character threads I left dangling at the end of The Loyalty of Pawns, and I have that ridiculous title. But as I started thinking about a follow-up, the Masters character is prominent in my mind; he is a major component of The Loyalty of Pawns, so it seemed smart to structure the follow-up around him. The plotting goes relatively smoothly. I’m excited. Off I go to craft a masterpiece; the idealized version of me is even whistling while he does so.

John Paul Sartre coined that wonderful phrase “hell is other people.” In this case the other people were my characters. Every last one of them refused to behave. I’d plotted a perfectly nice story and all my characters had to do was ask “How high” when I said “Jump.” A little dancing when I shot at the ground. The problem wasn’t so much that the story didn’t work but that the themes and some character arcs were pulling in a different direction. Masters, it turned out, was not the right focus for the follow-up. Much of the story still would have worked (though the ending would have to be completely re-envisioned). For a while I tried rewriting early chapters while course correcting in the middle. Eventually my partnership with that manuscript came to an unfortunate end, and I re-enacted the wood chipper scene from Fargo.

So that’s fine. I’ll just start The Loyalty of Pawns’ follow-up all over again, this time doing it correctly. Except I have to say that, while I love the idea of what the follow-up will be, I do not want to write that book right now.

As to what book I am writing…

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