Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Turning the Page

I spent yesterday afternoon disassembling all my Beastologist materials; putting all my notes and manuscript versions into files, putting the research books back on the shelves, filing away the manuscript journals and the Beastologist Series Bible in the cupboard until it’s time for Book Four. Not only do I desperately need the desk and table space for the next project, but I find this little ritual of packing up all the physical manifestations of the creative process really helpful. It is a way to bring a clean, bracing whoosh of fresh air to clear away all the remaining bits of the old story that might still cling to the recesses of my brain. I’m telling myself that I won’t even have to think of the Beastologist books for another five months. (Yet another good example of what prevaricators we writers are because I KNOW I’ll see both the copy edits and galleys before then, but I’m wanting to pretend I have an absolutely clean slate.)

Not only do I have to clean up the last remaining traces of Beastologist, but I need to simply CLEAN. Vacuum up all the cat hair and foxtails off the carpet, clean the bathroom, mop the floor, scrub and bleach the kitchen sink--just generally live in THIS world a bit before I dive back into the next imaginary one.

I’m toying with a couple of different approaches to the writing of this next book, as well as trying to step back and letting myself consider doing some radically different things with the story in Book Four. Okay, not radical probably, but reminding myself that series does not equal formula or template. I want to approach each book a little differently, give each one slightly different emphasis, and not become stale or predictable. Which is a challenge when you also have readers’ expectations to deal with. What I want to do is exceed reader expectations, but in an unexpected yet hugely satisfying way.

I don’t want much, do I?

Serpents of Chaos I wrote mostly to entertain myself and reconnect with the sheer fun of writing. When I first started it, it was really and truly a “just for me” book. One that I didn’t really intend to show anyone else—after all, it was so different from all my previous stuff. It was my own private sandbox that no one else could play in. I could be as greedy and self-indulgent as I liked. As I think I’ve mentioned before, imagine my surprise when my agent ended up liking it best of all my stuff. Important lesson in there.

In Staff of Osiris I wanted to do a couple of things differently. I wanted sustained and steady pacing throughout, and I wanted to weave a complex, multi-faceted plot that all came together in the end. I think I accomplished that.

For Eyes of Horus, now that I’d established the community and parameters of Theo’s world, I wanted to delve deeper into each of the characters and flesh them out more, allow the reader to get to know them better. I also wanted to flip a couple of assumptions on their head.

And now it’s time for the fourth book and I haven’t quite decided what my next evolutionary step is. I know I’ll be having fewer plot layers in this book, since many of the players won’t be making the trip to Egypt. But I also want some narrative element to keep it all fresh—I just haven’t decided what yet.

As for the actual writing of it, I’m torn between two approaches. I want to either put together a long, solid outline of about twenty five page and then write from that. OR I want to do the preliminary research and brainstorming and just jump in like I did when I started writing the first Theodosia. Not sure which one I’ll try yet—I’m waiting for a signal or input from my muse. This is also complicated by my upcoming two week long school visit that I’ll be doing at the end of October. So for the next three weeks, I’m allowing myself to fill the well, stir the creative stew, throw in anything I can get my hands on, and let it gestate.

I’m also toying with trying to put together a book trailer for Nathaniel Fludd. I know there is no consensus as to whether or not they actually sell books, but they are definitely fun and give one something to talk about. It also seems a shame not to showcase all the terrific artwork in the book. Plus, I like to keep my technical skills current. I have iMovie and wouldn’t mind learning how to use it. It could also end up being a major time and energy sink though. Must think about that some more.


Story Weaver said...

I once made myself a book trailer, and it WAS terribly fun to fool around with.
About you're next Theodosia; Is there something that happened in the third book that could be challenged in the fourth? Just food for thought, brainstormin' and all that.

Anonymous said...

I've been thinking about making a trailer as well for Last Best Days and probably will when the ARC comes out. (God only knows what the jacket will look like.) Have you thought about Animoto for trailer help? I'm such a slow study when it comes to technology, but you should be able to zip through.

Lori W. said...

I love the idea of a book draft as "your own private sandbox that no one else can play in". That seems quite freeing. Also, I can relate to needing to move away from the imaginary world . . . must clean, buy groceries, pay bills, but there are only so many quiet hours in a day. Good luck with the book trailer; I enjoy watching them.

Robin L said...

Story weaver, that is exactly what I'm trying to play with--I want to be sure that what was set up in Book Three doesn't make Book Four too predictable! Great minds, and all that.

Val, I hadn't even heard about Animoto until you mentioned it. Will have to check that out!

Lori, yeah the real world does demand attention sometimes, doesn't it? Blergh.