I know you’re all saying, “Melissa, it’s been a year already since The Sixth Strand released. Where the heck is book six?”
The answer is that I’m about 500 pages into the manuscript and feel like I’ve barely scratched the surface of this book. It’s not just a feeling. Those 500 pages represent most of Felix, a good beginning with Trell and Tanis, and a smattering of first chapters for others; but I haven’t even broken the surface on the majority of the work, especially considering how much needs to happen.
This book is a beast. I think I said the same thing about book five, right around the time when I told everyone there was going to be a book six. Needless to say, I’m feeling a little bit of pressure to get this book out of the gate and into that stage where it’s flying along and I can barely keep up. The fence is open, but the book remains rooted, despite my various goadings. It’s morphed itself from a thoroughbred into a bull into a surly and ill-tempered mastodon.
One of the reasons this book is slow going is the number of viewpoint characters that need a first chapter. I mentioned in my last update that first chapters are important and can take a while to get right. They set the scene, remind everyone where that character has been and what’s happened to them, and have to drive the plot forward into the story arc for that book, all while being entertaining.
Over the weekend, I got to feeling a bit incompetent and pathetic about my seeming lack of progress and decided to list out all of the viewpoint characters (I had been thinking there were around twenty-seven) and just see what I was dealing with. Sometimes it helps to get a visual representation of the massive story conglomerate that I mostly track in my head.
Low and behold, my handy Excel file showed me that I wasn’t trying to write twenty-seven viewpoint characters. I was trying to write forty.
And when you put them all together on their various story threads, there were still fifteen separate plot threads to weave together into one cohesive story. That’s like writing four normal books, all at the same time. In case this isn’t apparent, nobody in their right mind does this.
Here’s what all of this looked like when I was done:
These are just the characters that I know about so far. The list doesn’t include characters who may yet make an entrance as more storylines get developed. And yes, it includes a couple of newbies, like Francesca da Mosta (who we met on Felix’s thread in book five) and Dorian Breckh (who we’ll meet on Nadia’s thread) as well as Gadovan Mandoril’s younger brother Galadan (the heretofore unnamed Paladin Knight who carried Niko van Amstel back from T’khendar to Illume Belliel after Franco Rohre decked him).
As many viewpoint characters as I have now, if I just wrote one chapter to reintroduce everyone, I would be be fifteen chapters into the book but only one chapter into the story. I have no idea how I’m going to solve that.
Lately I’ve been following the advice of my fellow Southern belle, Scarlett O’hara, who declared, “Oh…I can’t think about this now. I’ll go crazy if I do! I’ll think about it tomorrow,” and I’m just trying to write one chapter at a time.
Lest my personal sob story dishearten you, please rest assured I am devotedly writing book six and doing little else, much to the dismay of my waistline. This book is my priority, and with each chapter completed, that’s another rope around that mastodon. Eventually I’ll drag him out of the gate, and we’ll finally be off and starting to generate some momentum.
I’ll keep you updated as I have more news (like…any idea where this book is heading, for instance, or when it might make its way into your hands). As always, my deepest gratitude to all of you for reading.
Thanks so much for the update! I can only imagine the daunting task before you but I like your attitude. Just keep whittling away at it and sooner or later you’ll have the beast hog tied.
Exactly, Rick. One step at a time. 🙂
Thank you for the update Melissa, your books are keeping me going during Cancer treatment and I often find myself thinking about the characters and daydreaming about the books. They really do take my mind off everything, so a huge thank you from me. Book six will come together and I know when it does it will be amazing, and worth the wait!!!
Thank you for having such an amazing imagination and introducing the world to Alorin 🙂
Thank you so much, Kate. I’m deeply honored that my books are providing a refuge for you in what must be a very difficult time. I appreciate your encouragement very much and hope to offer the same. Thank you for reading.
While I anxiously await the next epic, I am content in re-visiting the story this far. I’ve found the books on audible and the narration has truly brought the characters to life for me. I absolutely LOVE your work. Thanks for the update!
I’m thrilled you’re enjoying the series so far, Morgan. I feel very blessed to have Nick Podehl as the voice of my series. Thank you for listening.
I am just finishing book 3. This series is absolutely amazing! I will wait forever for this series! Please do end this!
Do not End this is what I meant to say!
LOL, Shannon. I figured that’s what you meant. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my series so far. Keep me posted!
At least you are willing to let your fans/public know where you are and how things are moving along. But don’t forget to take time for Melissa! At least one minute out of every hour 🙂 I have witnessed too many authors get frustrated to the point they give up on a series (ala GRRM) and never finish it so the fans get really disheartened.
I really enjoy your writing style and this is one of the better yarns and your characters are quite interesting.
It’s very true, what you say, Daniel. I’m taking care to balance the story (which definitely feels overwhelming) with other areas of life (which don’t). 😉
Hi Melissa, I CAN’T wait for book 6! I’ve now gotten 4 people through the whole series. We’ve got a little book club going! You are AWESOME!
Thank you so much, Sarah. I truly appreciate your sharing my series with others.
When you get it finished I’m certain it will be glorious. Thank you for the update.
Thank you for your encouragement, Marni!
Thanks for the update! This series is more or less exactly what I look for (long, multi-pov, large cast, lots of magic) in fantasy, so I appreciate the effort to wrangle all these different threads.
If it’s feasible, it would be interesting to see any pruned threads show up in a novella or something someday.
Sooo, 40+ hour audio perhaps ? Also, just take your time (as long as it’s not two more years ), let the characters write the book, don’t force something that isn’t there yet. If you let your anxiety take over it can only do harm. Set a day or two aside each week to unwind, relax, and recharge. Also, I really need to pick up some signed copies at some point. I’ve listened to all but the 4th and 5th books over 10 times so far (had to due to so much info, always finding something I missed and going “HOW DID I MISS THIS! IT EXPLAINS SO MUCH!”), and would like to physically read them at some point. Also, it’s time to finally start building the library I always wanted to have when I’m an old man. My goal is to get as many signed LitRPG, SCIFI, Fantasy, ancient textbooks/old books in general, and history books as possible to fill it. Preferably all in hardback.
There was supposed to be a tongue emoji and fingers crossed emoji in there at the beginning… Oops.
You’re too kind, and you’re incredibly sweet thoughtful! I can’t begin to imagine the process but I believe you excel at it. Even if it take 5 years, I know it’ll be complete when you believe it to be. Honestly, the other authors I follow are on 7+ year gaps between books. I read the Wheel of Time series in between newer novels, when I’m not reading for work! Lol
You are hands down one of my *favorite* authors. Thank you, and remember that you’re only 1 person and we are in a pandemic. Take all the time you need.
I so appreciate your kind words, encouragement and support, Victoria. Thank you. And thank you for reading!
That sounds like an enviable goal, Richie. Just so you know, you can purchase signed copies whenever you’re ready via my website. Thank you for listening (over and over again)!
Thank for the update u Rock so keep it up.
I appreciate the encouragement, Fidel. 🙂
Thank you so much for the updates. I know it’s difficult but you always make the best stories. So take your time and you will produce another wonderful, beautiful tale to bring us further along the story! You are awesome and I can’t wait to see what comes next. The process obviously works great, trust the process! Thank you for all you do!
Thank you so much for your kind words of encouragement, Will. Thank you for reading!
Hi Melissa, thank you for the update, I have always loved that you take time out to update and connect with your readers.
For me if you wrap the story up in book 6 or book 10, I know that it will be amazing and worth waiting for.
Thank you so much, Peter. I truly appreciate knowing how happy you’d be to stay in the world a bit longer than one more book. 😉
I agree with Peter! I wouldn’t be sad if this turned into a 10 part series. Perhaps a prequel, maybe some side stories, or books set around some of the more interesting side characters, maybe books centered in the other realms. I want it all!
I appreciate your enthusiasm for Alorin more than you know, Richie. Thank you.
Melissa, I fall in love with your books,these stories deserve every bit of time you need. As much as I want this book 6 sooner, I’d rather wait another year than have you send off a story you weren’t completely satisfied with. You’re a wonderful author.
It almost sounds like you’re about to pull a double Tad Williams. Turning a final volume into three. Not that that’s a bad thing!
It has definitely crossed my mind, Andrew. 🙂
I’ll wait for a GOOD book as long as required, so long as it is actively being worked on … and the quality of your previous books makes me even more willing to wait for this one to be ready.
There is nothing more disheartening than for a good series to be ruined by a rushed climax (cough-cough, HBO Game of Thrones).
Take your time, and know your fans appreciate your thorough exploration of the world you’ve created …
Melissa, over the years, you have quickly become one of my favorite authors, and though my opinion, overall, is a clichéd drop in the bucket, I only mention this because I am impatient to read your work, but even more appreciative that you take the time to finish the product you wish to release to us.
You have a way of tossing about a tremendous amount of character threads that somehow keep the readers interested as well as present them all in a way that avoids confusion.
Like Robert Jordan, you’ve painted a diverse and grand world (well, multiverse may be a better description), but unlike Jordan, you’ve managed to keep the viewpoints and stories interesting. It’s something I hope to aspire to some day.
In my mind, I like to compare PSOL with Jordan’s Wheel of Time and Sanderson’s (whom, with you, make up my favorite two authors) Stormlight Archive. The number of threads you present make SA seem, currently, subdued, and WoT seem boring.
This is not an insult to their works, but praise for yours.
Where am I going with this? We appreciate the time you take to perfect your craft and get your story where it needs to go.
Thank you for being the writer you are.
Also, please feel no pressure from us, your devoted fans, to wrap this up in Book Six. I think I speak for many when I say that, if needed, please carry on to lucky #7.
You have yet to make me feel like ANY of your books/stories are just “fillers” as some authors have created (I’ll leave those names off, out of respect), thus I feel any books beyond your current plan would solely be to truly tell the story you want.
Thank you, again, for your stories, updates, and ethic that comes through your work so well!
Richard, I so appreciate your kind words. I’m absolutely thrilled you’re enjoying my series and honored by your comparisons to other great fantasy authors. It is definitely my intent to give a sense of purposeful forward motion to every page of my story. I’m so glad you feel that way about what I’ve written so far.
Thank you for sharing your perspective with me, and thank you for reading.
I can’t speak for all fans, however I want to express that just because you said the next book is the last, doesn’t mean it has to be. Not because the thought of the story ending is a little sad, though of course true, but mainly because this story deserves the respect of no rushing or limits. I trust that any expansion into a 7th or even 8th book by you, would never be about commercial gains. Your detailed accounts and commitment to character development is appreciated and greatly respected. Do your thing and don’t set limits on your creativity! Also, thank you so much for the gift you share. Life would be very dull without storytellers.
Thank you so much, Annette. I am definitely working to ensure the storylines are all concluded satisfyingly (where a satisfying end is possible, that is). I appreciate your encouragement and trust. Thank you for reading.
Just keep swimming, Just keep swimming. This next book almost sounds like it needs parts. But I’m already excited, and I can only imagine how difficult an undertaking this is, simply because of how well you mange your work, character development, and overall multiple story arches.
One thing that would be neat is to stand back and look down a visual of everyone’s thread in your massive tapestry you have built. Like others I do not want you to rush. Take your time, patience is a virtue, but it will give me time to reread all the books again for more things I’ve missed the first time through.
Thanks for all your hard work.
Thanks, Kevin. I agree – I probably will end up breaking it into two parts, but right now I’m just concentrating on writing one chapter at a time. Funny you should say that. I have the beginnings of a timeline that barely hit the first quarter of the book, and it’s about 50 chapters worth of story that doesn’t even begin to scratch the surface. Fun times.
Melissa, stop answering all of our comments and write, write, write… No pressure. 🙂 Of course, I am joking. I cannot imagine your struggle with writing this. I think you need to put all your characters in “time out” for running off an leading their own lives. You created them and gave them life, but then they all ran amok and drug you, humble author, along for the ride which you then dictated and shared with us!
Thank you for all that you do to keep us enthralled and entertained! I’m sure I speak for all your avid readers when I say, “we wish you the best!”
LOL. You’re quite right, Cody. All of this chatting is a terrible injustice to getting that story told. I am back to the grindstone as soon as…
Thanks for the update. I’m currently going through the series again for the second time in the last year. Can’t get enough, especially with Nick’s narration. What an incredible story 🙂
Honestly, if you have to add more books I don’t think any of us will begrudge you the extra material! If it ends up being 7-10 books long, that just means we get to spend more time in your world 🙂
I’m personally really interested in learning more about the quorum of the sixth truth, and hope that if we don’t get more of their history in the main story, that you might find yourself wanting to write a historical prequel series about them and the lead up to the cataclysm. Love your work!
I’m sure you’re right that no one will protest more books, Bethany. You will definitely learn more about the Quorum in book six!
First, thank you for the time and depth of each character you have given us. I have listened to the entire series 5 times. Each time I listen to Nick Poedhl I hear more depth. I anxiously await book 6. I also understand the idea of herding cats when you consider the 40+ characters and 15+ storylines as they cross the paths of the tapestry. I am not the most elegant reviewer. I just wanted to say I am a huge fan of the series. The characters continue to change with the situations, and the growth they achieve over the course of the series so far is daunting. Your storytelling is amazing.
I appreciate your confidence very much, Shelli. Five times through – you must be an expert by now! Thank you so much for listening.
I have to know, is Bjorn actually Cephrael? All the signs point to it, and the Sixth Strand basically confirmed it, I’m about 95% sure lol. That would also mean that Isabel is really Epiphany, not just her “prophet”. I suppose they would be some sort of avatar, like the previous one of Cephrael that Baelfeir buried under a mountain.
Either way, please write at your own pace. Take whatever time you need to make it awesome. Not in the Patrick Rothfuss kind of way, but in the Melissa McPhail kinda way =). I know it’ll be worth it either way.
Thank you for the encouragement and reassurance, Dan. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my series.
So happy to hear that there’s progress, even if it’s not at the speed you might hope for right now. I cannot wait to get back into this story, especially after how you ended book 5. Just…*chef’s kiss*! Every time I’ve thought I had a bead on the story or who I thought the antagonist might be you’ve pulled a twist or revealed a something about one of your characters that leaves me spinning and dying to learn more. I know whenever the next book comes it’s going to be great!
Thank you so much, Jon. I’m certainly hoping to make book six a worthy next installment in the series. I appreciate your kind words. Thank you for reading!
Good morning from the UK. This series has been an absolute godsend for me during the pandemic lockdown. Due to medical conditions I have been shielding at home and your books have kept me sane. The plots and threats in the story lines are wonderful and complex and I can’t wait for the next book. I can imagine that this will take some time to work through but I am sure your amazing imagination will help you complete this in time.
Thank you so much, Ursula. I’m so glad my series has been able to lighten your days in these isolating times. I appreciate your confidence and encouragement. I’m working hard on book six. It’s definitely a monster!
well all i can say is keep on keeping on. i’ve literally run out of good things to read!!! do your thing and I know all of us will be happy with the results.
Thank you so much, Andy. I’ll keep at it. 🙂
If you haven’t read the Licanius Trilogy, I highly recommend it. One of my new favorites.
Thanks for the update! Eagerly awaiting your next book! I think i have went through all the books 3 times on Audible and once by reading 🙂
So many viewpoints to get through! would you consider giving less “screen time” to some characters in the main story line and just give an overview of what they would do. Then come back with a sperate book to give full details? Since you mentioned the Licanius Trilogy (i loves those books too) – the book had an authors notes at the end which was not included in the audible version, so i sent a message to the author and he told me that there will be another book (hopefully in the near furtuer) about Aelric and Dezia – i really wanted to know what happened to them!
Although its definitely more complicated than that and i don’t want you to miss out any of the view points haha. No matter what you do i am just glad there are more books coming out 🙂
Thank you for your suggestions, HaiTing. I definitely have to get creative, that’s for sure. Shorter chapters is a beginning. We’ll see what else I can come up with. Thank you for reading and listening so many times!
You got this…
Write until you feel the book is complete. Decide if the end of this book is the end of the story..if so take a bow, if not write another. Time, length, number of book expectations are external expectations/motivations. Don’t give external stuff too much power.
Thank you, Bill. Always such wise words.
I have to say that of all the 40 characters you listed in your update, there is one you failed to list. While I adore all of the characters in this book, by far my favorite is that author writing the Grand Epic to rival the likes of “WOT” and “Shannara”. I see her scrambling to climb a mountain of pages while stopping to update us on her progress.
I must say I look as forward to your updates, as I do the actual novels you write. Thank you from all of us for caring and allowing us a glimpse of an artists inner thoughts.
Vincent, thank you so much. I’m honored by your kind words, your vote of confidence and your unwavering support while I climb the mountain that is the pinnacle of this story.
Your books have captured my attention & refuse to let go!! When I need something to listen to, I keep all 5 of your books downloaded on all of my devices, just to be able to jump & access my comfort zone in a second!
I look forward to reading this “mastodon” of a book with a flourish & I’m hoping you only slightly edit it as well. Let people say it was a long read, that’s a plus for me.
I’m always looking for someone who can equal your wonderfully imaginative mind & soul, but I haven’t found anyone yet!
I don’t only buy audio, but also the physical books. Please keep up with your ingenious stories & I’ll keep on buying them up.
Thank you so much. I’m honored to know that my world has wedged itself into your own universe in a meaningful way. Thank you for listening!
I am about to read the epilogue for The Sixth Strand. You have woven together a beautiful series – borrowing from things we know well to weave something truly magical. I can’t wait to continue the journey.
Perhaps what you need to complete book 6 is that you need a book 7?
LOL, Dovid. There will definitely be a book seven! I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my series. Thank you so much for your kind words and encouragement.
Thanks for the update. I love the characters and storyline. I enjoy it so much that I am going to start over and listen to all the books again before book 6 comes out. I am excited to see what happens next!
This is what happens when you don’t kill any of the main characters. It be comes exponetially more difficult as time passes.
Oh well it only means we will be seeing more books in this amazing series.
Great work so far! I am out of words to describe how much I love this series
Thank you for such a great series so far and a great fantasy epic I look forward to reading again and again. I know it cannot be easy interweaving so many characters in the story. The overall story is amazing and I rank it with the best of fantasy that I have read. Take as much time as needed for the next couple books since you have built this great world and characters we can all gravitate towards.
I appreciate that very much, Michael. Thank you.
Thanks for the update finished the sixth strand 3 days after I bought it and can’t be more impressed! I’ve read some amazing authors over the years really got started with terry goodkind and found Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, then Patrick Rothfuss now you. I’ve done so much growing up with the fantasy genre and I can’t imagine where it’s going to take me next can’t wait but you can’t rush the masterpiece you have started!
I know just what you mean about growing up with the fantasy genre, Jared. I’m thrilled you’re enjoying my series and honored to be part of your fantasy journey.
I’ve been reading Fantasy for almost 50 years and I put this series in my top three. You are spinning a magical tale with wonderful characters and a phenomenal and imaginative story line. Keep up the good work!
This will be my number 1 if it gets finished before the other two series, and I’m betting on you!
Hahaha, Dan – challenge accepted!
Well I definitely don’t want to disappoint you, Dan! Writing as fast as the muse will allow.
You are such and inspiration to all us want-to-be writers. I just wanted to let you know I think of you often as I work away on my dream. I know you’ll make it to the famous last words THE END. However that being said I still think you need ten books! One can hope. Right?
Don’t give up you’ll make. C.L. I.