Like many people, I’m sure, who have considered if they might be one of these “writer” people, I’ve written a lot of little short stories, snippets of conversation, and scenery descriptions over the years. It’s a defining characteristic of the author species, that occasional compulsion to put an idea you’ve had into words and jot it down on a piece of paper, and it’s probably my favorite part of what I’m frequently willing to refer to as my personality.
“Knight of the Flame” started that way. The opening scene in the book was one of those scenes, one of those little moments, concocted in the white matter, then translated into words. The rest of the book was a natural extension of that process. “Okay, so what happens next?” is really the only question that needed to be asked, besides the infrequent, “does it make sense for him/her to do that?” It was a wonderful, organic process, and I enjoyed the hell out of it.
The next book in the series is different, and I’m finding I need to teach my brain a new process. Everything I said before about sequels still stands, but the fact is that it’s not just the reader that needs to be put under a microscope, it’s the author, too. It’s the need to follow up a decent story with one that is just as decent, and it’s the matching need for it all to fit into a single narrative.
I’m two chapters in to “Sect of the Rounded Stone” and I’m learning all kinds of new things about the process of writing a sequel. See, those moments, those little scenes that I’ve enjoyed writing since I was about ten? They’re still there. I’ve got about a dozen of them that have bubbled up in my head over the past few months, and what I know for sure about them is that they fit into the story somewhere. You hear a lot in game and movie production about “set pieces”. It’s that part in the story where suddenly the whole thing opens up into some scene or other, and the narrative makes full use of it and, in fact, at least partially revolves around it. I think a lot of stories have good set pieces. The good ones seem to be the ones that are capable of tying them together with something other than duct tape and bad dialogue.
It’s the same here. I’ve got my set pieces, little bits of scene that are all constructed and ready to go. They’re fun, they’re interesting, they tell the reader a lot about the character, and they take the larger story all the way from the beginning to the end. But they need to be connected together, and I’ve spent the better part of a week trying to construct these “story ties” which tell a story worth telling.
The process may need revision. It seems that this must be the difference between “writing for fun” and “writing to entertain”, the thing which separates the novice from the veteran. Yes, you can put cool words on paper, but can you not only make those words make sense in a larger context, but can you also make that context make sense in an even larger context….you know, without having the whole thing just sort of blow up with epic-ness?
It’s a fun way to be spending my time. The nice thing is that I get a sort of winter break from work in four days, so I’m about to have all kinds of time to experiment.