It’s September so that means it’s probably time for an update. Make sure you’re signed up for my mailing list if you want to be notified of future releases.
Okay, on to business. I’ve been getting questions about when book six will be out since oh, about ten minutes after book five released in June. That’s not a complaint, by the way. It’s heartwarming to know so many of you are excited to continue reading my series.
On that note, first let me reassure those of you who’ve been asking: there will definitely be a book six. While you’re waiting, you might enjoy the discussion happening in the Facebook fan group. Lots of lively discussion happening there, and it might be especially nice for those of you who are more isolated and without a lot of people to chat with about the series. Check out the Pattern of Shadow and Light FB group here.
In terms of timing for book six…well, I’m hoping to return to my two-year release schedule. Excluding book five (which was a real beast to tame, attested to by those of you who were following my progress at the time), it usually takes me about a year to write a book, half a year to edit and prep for press, and half a year to market and publish.
The beginning and end months of those two years are a bit mushy, but that’s generally the timeframe, which, all things considered, is pretty quick for writing and editing upwards of 340,000 words. But by the end of all of that, I’ve usually been mentally out of the world for about half a year.
I’ve found this to be necessary. Otherwise, I just sort of stay stuck in the book that just ended and never want to leave it. You’d think I could just keep writing the next chapter for each character, but in truth, it becomes very difficult to move on.
I think partly this is because a book is its own wholistic story, even though it’s part of a larger story being told. But the book has a beginning, a middle and an end, and it has character arcs and story arcs within itself. Even though I don’t plot all of those out on a whiteboard, I conceive them in my head. So when I get to the final scenes, the book is done, those arcs have terminated at THE END and there is nothing more to write conceptually.
So it’s become a discipline point. I forcibly remove my attention from the book and focus instead on the marketing and release.
While that’s a necessary evil, it also makes getting back into the world a bit like starting an exercise program after two years of sitting on the couch eating ice cream and chips. There’s a sort of negative inertia—at least the inertia of no motion—and it’s quite something to overcome that, creatively.
So the inertia is one challenge. Then there’s the abject terror part of it.
Dear readers, starting the next book in a series of this complexity is daunting. I sit staring at my screen, either not knowing what to write because there are soooooo many characters to think through that when I try to plot out even a couple of them, I get all snarled up; or I sit staring at my screen feeling utterly overwhelmed by how many plot lines I have (only twenty-six viewpoint characters, right? What’s the problem?); or I sit staring at the screen in a state of perpetual apprehension with the lament of “How will I ever make this book better than the last one?” wailing in my subconscious.
Being that I went through this exact phenomenon with books two, three, four and five, you’d think book six would be the charm, but blast it all, here I am staring at my screen again, trembling.
Okay, perhaps the trembling part is a bit dramatic.
Most authors start a book with the all-important first chapter. That chapter has to grab the readers’ attention and lure them into the world. It has to be intriguing and exciting. It has to dazzle!
When you’re writing upwards of thirteen primary viewpoint characters, it’s like having to write thirteen first chapters. Plus, I’ve got to unobtrusively catch you up on that character—what they’re up to, what their mindset is, and what they were doing at the end of the last book—without throwing that update in your face. (There’s nothing worse than four paragraphs of summarized backstory regurgitated from the book you just finished and now inserted into the middle of chapter one. You feel me?)
Then, I’ve got to introduce the conflict for each character in this new book (or at least begin to set it up), and I need to make the chapter interesting and fun to read. I’ve also got to balance whatever happens in that chapter with the overall planned pacing of the book (i.e. I can’t start off every character’s first chapter with all of them philosophizing over a glass of wine; some of them have to be in action whether I want them to be or not). And because the weight of the entire book feels so heavy and overwhelming, it’s difficult to stay interested in writing at all. I just want to go do something that’s easy, like eating ice cream and chips on the couch.
Finally, finding the right setting, the right moment, the right viewpoint in which to bring you back into each character’s story…this is of critical importance. I don’t always get it right at the beginning. I end up writing a lot of first chapters that find their way into the dreaded “Excerpts” folder, never to see the light of the printed page.
But it’s not all doom and gloom and spinning wheels getting nowhere. I have managed to finalize a few chapters. I’ll keep you posted as the book progresses.
I’m very interested in your feedback, thoughts and speculations once you’re through book five. I would love to know any particular story threads you’d like to see more of, or characters you’d like to learn more about. Everything is still on the table at this point. Share your thoughts (and requests!) in the comments below.