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Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Prequel and Sequel

Here it is the middle of June. How did that happen? May vanished in a blur of revision. I posted about the various aspects of The Spirit Lens revision process. I know the book is stronger, tighter, and cleaner than when I turned it in the first time. I believe that both motivations and - very important in the context of a mystery - my investigators' deductions are clearer. The ending is much stronger and more satisfying.

So now I am leaping back into the development of Book 2 of the Collegia Magica series, The Soul Mirror. I left off back in April with a few solid chapters written and several additional chapters left over from a time when I thought the story of The Soul Mirror would be the first of the series.

Whoa, you might say. How did the first book of a series become the second before any of the series is even released?

The original story idea for the novels of the Collegia Magica, derived somewhat from some very early writing I did, had to do with a reserved, bookish young woman whose family had been described as "as perfectly balanced as the elegant ellipses of the planets" in a kingdom where new discoveries in science were elbowing magic out of the way. Through a series of circumstances, that unique, vibrant family had disintegrated, leaving Anne standing alone in a place she had no desire to be, faced with a mystery she had no qualifications but her own intelligence to solve. I wrote maybe ten chapters of that story before realizing that,

  1. I was having to cram in tons of backstory to explain the family's disintegration. As this was the foundation for Anne's mystery and the solution to it, it felt very flat,cramped, and rushed. It was like making a sandwich when you'd eaten all the bread the day before.

  2. the overarching mystery I had initially set out was much too simplistic.

The more I thought about it, the more I decided that the characters involved in all that backstory, Anne's family as well as the other players, were too interesting to be relegated entirely to backstory, especially when their nature and characters served as motivations for the book. Thus, I decided I wanted to start much earlier so that I could give this backstory real life, that is, to make it frontstory.

At the same time, I gave thought to the mystery and came up with a much more complex idea (which is still evolving, by the way.)

Figuring out where to start is an important decision. Sometimes it is simple. The most significant, world-altering change in the saga of the Rai-kirah - or rather in the story I wanted to tell about the Rai-kirah - was Aleksander purchasing a new slave - the day he met Seyonne. The story I told in Song of the Beast was that of a musician rediscovering the wellsprings of his art. It was not the story of a musician being clapped into prison at the height of his fame and being tortured into silence, though I had to refer to that piece of the story to give a foundation to Aidan's journey. Thus the proper beginning was the hour Aidan was released from prison.

Sometimes, you can only know where to start by knowing precisely what story you're trying to tell. And sometimes you can't know that until you've told a a part of it.


Sarah said...

That's weird! =)

When I start a story, I usually know (and sometimes that's the only things I really know) how the story starts and how it's going to end. It would feel strange to change the starting of the story, I think.

But then, I'm trying myself on novels only now, I've basically written only short stories so far, and I guess not knowing where a short story begins would REALLY be weird! =(

carolwriter said...

It DID feel strange to change the start of the story. But I certainly had no trouble filling an entire book with the "prequel" events. That's why it was so much trouble to try to cram them in as backstory. And The Spirit Lens changed my approach to Anne's story. Made it much richer.

Yes, a short story is a more concise idea. But sometimes one might need to juggle the opening time a bit to make it perfect.

J. Cheney said...

Congratulations on winning the Colorado Book Award!

Unknown said...

I know it's going to be good, I cant wait for it. I've read the rai-kirah saga twice and i'm rereading the bridge of d'arnath series now, soon i'll reread the lighthouse duet. Every book is so good, i'm so excited.