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Friday, March 26, 2021

A Series of Questions

I've been saying to myself "oh, I really should write a blog post" for about the past week or so. Honestly, I don't have a whole lot to report. Progress on Surrendering the Skies, Book 3 of the series I'm rebooting, is coming along nicely. I would estimate I'm somewhere between a third and halfway through, and I've got a pretty good outline for the whole thing. (As well I should, as this has been floating around in my head for years.)

As I've been writing, I've been thinking of how this book will fit into the series as a whole, and various issues relating to doing a series in general. First, I should preface this by saying I admit I have not read a series in a long time. Free time for hobbies is limited these days, and I try to spread it around evenly. Due to that, I've definitely had a preference for standalone books the past few years. I know, I know, good readers make good writers, blah blah blah. But there are only so many hours in the day, you know.

One big issue I've been thinking about whether or not it's important for each book of a series to be able to stand on its own. As always, there's no one right answer. I read a lot of the Anita Blake series in high school and college, and I started with Book 9, Obsidian Butterfly, because I got it as a birthday gift from a friend who worked at Barnes & Noble when it came out and he liked the cover. (Hey, there are worse reasons!) Interestingly enough, Obsidian Butterfly is kind of the "side quest" of the series, in which Anita takes a vacation from all the drama in her life. So, that kind of answers the standalone question and actually made it a decent book to start with. I continued on with #10, Narcissus in Chains, liked that too, and then went allllll the way back to the beginning.

(Then I quit after #12, Incubus Dreams, and learned a few years later that I was not alone in stopping at that exact point, but THAT is another topic for another day.)

Then the other full series I've read in recent years is The Hunger Games trilogy. (I have not gotten to the new fourth book yet, but that's a prequel anyway.) I started at the beginning, and I can't think of a single person who has started anywhere other than with Book 1. I'm sure they exist, but I can't imagine reading that series out of order. Also, I did read the first Outlander book a few years ago but didn't continue with the rest of them, and that seems like another one where people tend to start at the beginning.

So, my Skies series. I've said before that back when I wrote the first one, I never had any plans for it being a series, which I guess fits in with me being more of a pantser than a plotter anyway. When I wrote Book 2, Defying the Skies, I did make an effort to make it accessible to readers who hadn't read the first one. Now, with Book, not so much. I mean, since it's not really a complex world, I guess readers could start here and figure out the context quickly, but it's not a priority for me this time around. And unless someone whose opinion I value tells me otherwise, I'm sure I will be at the point of barely caring at all about this issue by the time I get to #4 out of the planned five.

Which reminds me, I will eventually need a better outline for #5 than I have now, but I don't need to worry about that yet, right? (Pantsers unite!)

Sunday, March 7, 2021

To the Skies!

I've mentioned a couple of times over the past months that the first publisher I worked with has shut down, all the rights to my books have reverted back to me, and I had to figure out what to do with them. I took my planned writing break following the completion of A Flame Among the Stars, but then it was time to decide what to start next. As always, I had a number of ideas to choose from, but one possibility called to me the loudest: I wanted to finish off the Skies series.

To recap: Searching the Skies was my very first published book, featuring Commander Geneva Greyson and her attempts to balance her career goals with her family life, along with having to choose between two men who show a romantic interest in her. (Spoiler alert! She chooses both, and the three of them live happily ever after.) As this was my first major writing project that wasn't fanfic, I didn't really think too far ahead beyond "can I get something published?" I don't even remember what made me want to write a sequel, but I did, and it came out a year and a half after the first one. I did have plans to write a third book and had a pretty solid outline for it, but for a whole long list of reasons, it never happened.

So, here we are. Before starting the shiny new book, I wanted to go through and edit the first two. I'd skimmed through them back when the rights first reverted back to me, and I knew I had some work to do. As I wrote in a previous post, Searching the Skies was...ARGH. Ergh. Bleh. I guess if nothing else, it's nice to be able to say I've so obviously improved as a writer? Some of it was downright painful to reread, to the point where I almost want to track down everyone who read it and apologize to them. Honestly, there were points where I considered scrapping the whole thing, but if this were easy, everyone would do it, right?

I believed a good story lay hidden in there somewhere and slogged through to the end. Next up: Defying the Skies. While not flawless, I'm pleased to report this one held up considerably better. Sure, there were some errors that had been missed the first time around, and a few instances of lazy writing and awkward phrasing, but there were a few points that made me say "oh, damn, there's some really good shit in here". Us writers are often known for doubting ourselves, so those moments where the opposite happens are quite nice, I must say.

Okay, so the first two books are edited. Time to start the third! I started a new file two nights ago and I'm easing back into writing these characters I first created almost ten (!!!) years ago. But wait, there's more! As I said, I'd outlined the third book (and even titled it!), and it had a clear beginning, middle, and end...but then I realized that the ending I'd planned wasn't the most satisfactory, especially considering the series as a whole and comparing it to the previous two. I mean, it's an ending, in that it concludes the story the book tells, but I don't think I can leave off there. To make a long story short, I've decided this trilogy is now going to be five books long, and everything will be finished off with a pretty little bow on top by the end.

It sounds like a lot, and I definitely have my work cut out for me. I also have to decide on the best route for publication, and while I have some ideas/strategies, I need to get a bit more actual writing done first. For now, though, this is what I want to focus on, and I'm looking to more fun, sexy space adventures. Because I firmly believe the world can always use more of those.