In a recent newsletter, I announced the Compact Universe stories to come for the next year or so. I’ll put that schedule at the end of the post. Suffice it to say, it’ll take a lot more work than I’m used to doing.
In the old days, when you still had to chase an agent and pray an editor would buy your work, the process was slow, plodding. It still is for those who go that route, but essentially, you wrote a book, polished it, and began shopping the manuscript while you began work on the next one. For the novice, it meant that you’d have a second novel either in progress or finished by the time the first one sold. In my Jim Winter days, I had already begun work on my second book by the time Northcoast Shakedown made rounds.
These days, even trad authors need to stand out, often with more work than they would have done in the past. On the Self Publishing Podcast, Johnny, Sean, and Dave say at least once every episode that a writer does not make any money until they have several books out. That’s true in traditional publishing with the odd home run right out of the gate, but independent publishing makes this more acute.
So we become monkeys tapping away just to churn out content. Right?
Well, no. It just means we have to plan better. Some people like Stephen King can pants it. No outline, no plan, just park in front of the keyboard and write. Most people I know have to outline, even if they don’t admit it. Some people would rather fill out a book-length income tax return than do an outline.
I wrote a couple weeks back about how I approach projects now. I sketch what I want, fill out a beat sheet to hit the major points, then do a short outline – which is really more of a synopsis – followed by a chapter by chapter outline. I know. That word synopsis just caused several people’s hearts to go into afib. Chill. You’re not writing this for an agent or an editor. You’re writing it for you. You want to get a handle on the story. That’s why the sketch comes first.
For instance, I just wrote a sketch for a story called Quantonesia, a novella in the Compact Universe series. Essentially, I wrote down everything I want to happen in the story, somewhat in order. Today, I will do the beats, which only deals with the major plot points and puts them in certain places. What’s the inciting incident? What’s the midpoint? When does the main character or characters lose everything? What’s the climax? Actually, that last part has been frustrating because, like The First One’s Free and Gimme Shelter, they’ve been leaving the characters in something of a cliff-hanger.
Once the beats are done, I’ll write a short outline, just a few paragraphs explaining the story with the points from the sketch arranged around the beat sheet. Then I do a chapter outline. With the chapter outline, I try to predict how many words each scene will take. That let’s me achieve a desired word count.
Of course, no outline survives the final draft. Tishla, for instance, the current work in progress, has had several scenes compressed and a couple extended. We are not machines. We write for what the story needs. On the other hand, it’s become a lot easier to keep POVs focused. (Why my last crime novel, Holland Bay, did not get picked up by an agent.) Even the original novel that spawned the Compact Universe has this issue because it was only lightly outlined. (And so I have a developmental edit ahead of me.)
Right now, I’m working overtime. I need to plan the second novel, and, as the schedule below will show, three novellas to run parallel with it in 2017. That means I need to get the next four written and the current novel revised.
So what is this mysterious schedule I’ll be working on?
February, 2016 – Tishla: Find out what Tishla has to do after her challenge at the end of The First One’s Free and what happens when someone tries to kill her unborn twins.
May, 2016 – The Children of Amargosa: This is the novel that started it all. Gimme Shelter was originally part of this story. JT and another teen protag find themselves in the middle of an alien invasion and have to become the resistance. Only the aliens may not be their main enemy. It actually could be human.
August, 2016 – Broken Skies: JT Austin’s father, the admiral, tries to free Amargosa only to lose most of his ships. While he waits for a court-martial, he looks into the mysterious JunoCorp.
November, 2016 – Warped: Humanity cracks the warp drive question. And now the Compact wants to turn it into a weapon.
February, 2017 – Quantonesia: Douglas Best returns, now Jefivah’s representative to the Compact Assembly. Only now, the mysterious Luxhomme has shed his alias and become Earth’s delegate. Best starts digging.