I never like posting to my blog when I haven’t really got much news, but since so many of you are asking for an update, I guess it’s time to provide some sort of reassurance about book six in A Pattern of Shadow and Light.
As I mentioned in my last update, I’m writing book six and seven concurrently. These books will conclude the series. This also means that I have to finish the story before I can publish book six. This is because there are so many story threads (40+ viewpoint characters) that until they’re all more or less written, I can’t know how to tell you the rest of the story.
For example, let’s say I start in on Franco, Carian and Gwynnleth. This means developing the conflict in Illume Belliel, catching you up on Alshiba’s whereabouts, learning about at least one new realm, tapping into the Council’s activities along with Seth and Aldaeon, as well as the Nodefinder Rebellion, Cassius, Alyneri and Fynn. That’s half a book in itself. Felix, Phaedor, Marius and the Danes is another quarter taken up right there. And while I promise these chapters will be entertaining, how mad would you be if book six only covered them and we never got back to Tanis, Trell, Sebastian and the others?
There has to be logic to the sequencing of the chapters and a flow to the way the story is told. I can’t just bounce through 15 different storylines, one after the other, before returning to the first one sixteen chapters later. And I can’t know what storylines need to go in which book until I have my head around all of them.
There is also a very important aspect of delivering information to you in an exact sequence. There are lots of questions to be answered in these books. I obviously have to answer them with hints and allusions, insinuations and the occasional explicit “it happened like this.” But who answers those questions is as important as how and when. I have to determine if you need this information on Tanis’s thread or if it’s better if you get it on Ean’s, Bjorn’s or someone else’s.
If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know I write in story threads. Each character has their own thread. In previous books, some characters have been off on their own and I could write most of their thread without their storyline crossing anyone else’s. But the series has become so complex and the threads so intertwined that writing one character all the way through has become all but impossible. Either their storyline crosses another character’s in an integral way, or, if their storyline doesn’t cross another character’s integrally, something another character does is going to affect their storyline integrally.
Why is this a problem? Well, it’s making writing these two books rather tricky. Because I’m not a plotter; I’m a pantser, or the term I prefer is organic writer. That’s where you have a sort of vague idea where things need to go and you just jump in the character’s head and see how he/she decides to get there. After writing approximately 1.5 million printed words in this fashion, it’s all but impossible to suddenly become a plotter. But those reasons I mentioned above about characters crossing make this style of writing very hard to do.
Here’s an example of how this has been going: we know Trell needs to get to Tal’Shira, but how he does that is completely undecided. I wrote 5 chapters with him starting in one place and then got completely bugged. The story just would not progress. I could not get him beyond this point, no matter how hard I tried. No ideas were forthcoming. The normally active creative waters fell into a dead calm.
I moved to Alyneri and got one chapter done then bogged down. I tried Fynn and couldn’t even get through one chapter, despite knowing that the only thing needed to finish it was a fight scene. Next I went to Tanis, got three chapters in and started a fourth and thud. I hit a wall. I couldn’t get him to move forward. Nothing fit. No other ideas were forthcoming.
I moved to Ean. Wrote and rewrote his second chapter several times. Got bugged again. Moved to Shail. Half a dozen or more threads connect through him. I got a few of his chapters sorted along with some new ideas. Moved back to Baelfeir and made a few changes accordingly. Got another Vleydis chapter finished (after months languishing midway through). Managed to get a Bjorn chapter written after this. Moved back to Tanis. Corrected some bits and pieces in the earlier chapters to reflect changes from other characters’ threads, then got one more chapter on his thread before he bogged down again. Went back and entirely rewrote all of Trell’s chapters, starting him in a different location…
Sigh. I feel like I’m feeling my way in the dark here. I hit a wall and have to move around it, but sometimes it means majorly backtracking until I can find a new path forward.
Here’s the thing: I’ve always felt that I’m more channeling this story from another dimension than creating it myself (of course I know I’m creating it, but it really does feel this way). There are just so many storylines now and the channel from the Muse is so crowded with wavelengths that half the time all I hear is white-noise. However, each time I’ve hit a wall and backtracked or gone elsewhere, something very important has happened on the new character’s thread which changes some aspect of the thread I’d been writing before. I’ll finish one chapter and a different character will suddenly open up. I’ll know where to take them now. At least for two or three steps forward.
Which brings me to the clincher of my difficulties: too many characters depend on other characters for their actions. Sebastian’s thread is dependent on Morwyk’s, which is somewhat dependent on Dore’s, which is woven through Shail’s…you see how this goes. I can’t write one until three others are written, but sometimes those others just aren’t ready to be written. Their channel is still blocked for whatever reason. The Muse wills as She wills.
So there’s the look in on my daily path, just plodding along in the dark, running into walls, backing up, finding a new path, running into walls, backing up… It’s been super fun.
What does this mean for publication of book six? (This is really the question you’re interested in, I know). I’m sure you can guess that I really have no clue. I was hoping for this year (2021) but things will have to start moving faster for me to make that target. I’m sure there will be a tipping point where enough has been written and resolved and beyond which everything tumbles towards the finale. Lend me your positive energy that we get really rolling over here.
I want to profusely thank all of you who’ve been writing to me, commenting on my blog and keeping active in the fan group. Your conversations and speculations have been the light in this dark maze. You’ve kept me going through many a long unknown path. So thank you – all of you – for your staunch support and encouragement. Most of all, thank you for being part of Alorin with me.