Introduction to the Accountability Post 2021 Week 24
The second draft of Book 1 is now complete. It has it’s own snapshot PDF and everything, so it’s official! Not only that, but I took the opportunity to consider my next moves. I asked myself questions like, “Is a trilogy the right format?” “Do I want to use the prequel as the lead magnet to build an e-mail list?” Most importantly, at least for this stage: “Should I wait for the developmental editor to finish his work in October before I begin work on book 2?”
And then there’s my work on a new title, not only for the series, but for the individual books. I didn’t see that coming! But I take it as a good sign that inspiration can still take me by surprise. So, let’s talk about what happened this week.
Progress on Book 1
By the end of last week, I had edited up to and including chapter 86, “Happy Birthday.” Here’s the progress I made this week:
I expected my word count would increase significantly. I was wrong! My writing style changed while I wasn’t looking!
This week, I finished rewriting all 111 of Book 1’s chapters. The final word count surprised me. I expected my rewrite to add a lot more text than it did. When I last tried to write a novel, I left out about a third of what I’d wanted to say in the first draft. This time, I added only about 6,000 words. Either my writing has matured (ha!), or plot braiding really helped maintain my focus and helped me not forget scenes. Either way, it’s a win!
Speaking of Book 1…
Accountability Post 2021 Week 24 Asks: Is a Trilogy Necessary?
On Sunday, I had time to devote to some questions that had begun to bother me. My plan had been to write books 1, 2, and 3 as a trilogy. I planned to write the prequel as a slightly shorter novel, then use it was the lead magnet to build an e-mail list. I’d use that e-mail list to help launch book 1. That’s an approach I’ve heard from a number of sources, most notably Nick Stephenson and his “Hour First 10,000 Readers” program. But I couldn’t shake a feeling that would be a mistake.
I’ve been reading Craig Alanson’s series Expeditionary Force. I can’t remember enjoying a series more, at least in the last 20 years. I’ve read books 1, “Columbus Day,” through book 8, “Armageddon.” I’m 3/4 through book 9, “Valkyrie” now. This series reminded me of something.
It reminded me that I’m not bound by J. R. R. Tolkien’s formula for success. A trilogy isn’t the only series format available to me. I was kinda surprised that model still had such a firm grip on my imagination!
Books in a Series Should Share Similarities
Try reading that headline three times fast!
Thinking about “Expeditionary Force” reminded me of something else. The books in a series should share commonalities. For example, my first three books mix techno-thriller with space opera, with space opera becoming more dominant as the series progresses. The prequel, though, is merely techno-thriller. That means that it’s not a good introduction to the series. It would improperly set reader expectations. Therefore, I’m shelving the novel with the working title Divinity Ascending. Likely not forever. If the series gets popular, I may start a spin-off series that focuses on Earth. Which would be pretty easy, given everything that’s going on in this world.
The first book has a lot of space-based hardware. The prequel? Approximately zero. That could seriously disappoint readers!
Another point helped me decide to set Divinity Ascending aside for now. I had planned for it to be a lead magnet, but why would that novel interest anyone in joining my e-mail list? Put bluntly, I have no track record in fiction and I have no listings on Amazon. I am not confident it would be worth the effort to write it as a lead magnet.
Besides. If I end up living in a parallel universe and my series sells well, I might be able to rework Divinity Ascending to start a new series. If I can sell if instead of giving it away, it might be a bit more profitable!
Wait for the Developmental Edit to Start Book 2?
Before I start plotting Epsilon Eridani, I wondered: Should I wait for the developmental editor to finish his work on 61 Cygni? I don’t have a ton of experience plotting novels on my own. I’m pursing a developmental edit in acknowledgement of that fact. Should I pause novel work and wait for the results to see how far off I am?
I thought about that a lot over the weekend. My decision came down to this: Rewriting is the key to writing anyway, so I might as well maintain forward momentum. Between December 2020 and May 2021, I finished the first draft of 61 Cygni. I used half of June to rewrite it. By October, God willing and the creek don’t rise, I should be well into Epsilon Eridani. That’s work I’ll be able to rewrite, even if I learn that I suck more than I expect.
Which would have to be a lot, given my expectations!
Did I mention how much I enjoy designing the spaceships in this series? They’re not starships — yet. An Earth-bound techno-thriller might be fun, but space is where I want to start.
So I’m not waiting. I’m plunging forward with carefully crafted abandon! And I’m still hoping that the developmental editor tells me he’s sorry I’ve wasted my money, because book was so stupendously great that he had no feedback.
Though that’s probably rather less than likely!
A Series Needs a Title
Craig Alanson’s series also got me to realize that a series needs a memorable, descriptive title. Something that makes it instantly recognizable. Something that’s not too long. Without a series title, it’s more difficult for readers to keep up with the series. And let’s face it: I’ll need to keep things as easy for my readers as I can!
I’m still vetting my series title with my team of professional advisors. Which is to say, my wife and my daughter. So far, it’s polling well! But as far as the individual book titles, I think I can be confident I’ve found the pattern I want. I want the titles to scream “Science fiction!” while at the same time being short and to the point. So, the first book, which had the working title A Ghast in the Machine, will become 61 Cygni. The second book will be called Epsilon Eridani. The third? It’s a toss up right now between Sirius or Tau Ceti. I’ll need to see how plotting goes for book 3.
What’s On Deck for Next Week?
I’ve started putting together the Scrivener project for Epsilon Eridani. Starting with a backup of 61 Cygni, I removed the manuscript, beats, and other sections I won’t need. I plan to update the supporting organizational charts, because during the course of 61 Cygni, there were several notable changes — especially among the Executive at Terran Consolidated Products!
Picking the characters who will have arcs will be critical. Once I pick the characters, I can begin to braid the arcs into a plot. Honestly, I’ll be luck to have that done by my next Accountability Post. Rushing that process is the last thing I want to do — it’ll affect the whole book!
Accountability Post 2021 Week 24: Closing Thoughts
Have you ever written a series? How’d you pick titles? I’d love to hear your experience. Please drop me a note in the comments!
Thanks for reading!