Progress Report Number One
Updated: Nov 20, 2022
Book 2 Is Taking Shape.
Greetings and salutations, everyone! It’s progress report time! In other words, it is time to update my subscribers and visitors on the progress I am currently making on Book 2 of The Order of the Silver Sword, which is untitled at the moment, although the working title is. . . um. . . “Book 2.”
I like to keep things simple.
Anyway, let me give you a brief synopsis—no, I don't mean a synopsis of the book because, “Spoilers, sweetie.” Rather, I want to give you a synopsis of the events that have brought me to my current point of progress in Book 2, which is about three-fourths of the way through the first draft, or as I like to call it, “The Garbage Draft,” since most of it will undergo massive rewrites and end up in the “Garbage Bin,” or how I mentally refer to the folders that contain my original drafts. I should probably just make that the official folder name on my computer as a friendly little reminder that my first draft is always garbage. But I digress. . .
If all that interests you is knowing where I am in the drafting process well then, cheers! I have just reached Novel One and Three-Quarters! Everything that follows is not the blog you're looking for. You can go about your business. Move along, move along. Mind the gap. (I'm mixing so many metaphors right now.) However, if your inquiring mind would like to know more about the crazy journey I’m going through as a writer, then keep reading.
The first thing you should know is this: initially, there was never going to be a Book 2. I know, right? But hear me out. After the completion of The Sword and the Spark, which was written under the working title The Order of the Silver Sword (now there’s a bit of trivia for you), I was so thrilled to have completed a full narrative from beginning to end, with all the bits in the middle, that the only thing on my mind was getting it whipped into shareable, publishable shape. The story that had been told in the book was complete, there were no conflicts left to resolve, and so, I figured that once I had finished turning this bit of coal into . . . well, not a diamond but maybe a cubic zirconia, although I don’t think that’s how the science works, I would publish it and do something else with my life. After all, it had taken me forty-six years to write one book, so I couldn't fathom writing a second.
But then something crazy happened. I shared my fourth, fifth, and sixth drafts with trusted readers (because nothing before the third draft is ever shared, and also, I was a naughty writer who continued to revise the book even as they were reading it), and the first five of those readers asked the same question, which was, “There’s going to be a sequel, right?”
My answer was, “No.” I mean, did they know how many unfinished epic fantasies with loads of great characters and world-building but very little plot languished on my laptop? Did they know how many times I had rewritten my very first attempt at a fantasy in a mad quest to find an ending to the story only to finally give up on it for good? Did they know how much work I still had left to do on the very first book I had ever truly finished just to get it out there? Did they know that I still thought deep down in the depths of my soul that even this finished book sucked and that nobody would ever want to read it, let alone read a sequel to it?
Alas, despite my intention of being a one-and-done writer, even more readers began asking if I would write a sequel. Deciding that it was better to leave the door to that possibility unlocked but not quite open, I began to answer, “If there’s a story.” Yes, it was vague and noncommittal. But the reason for that answer was that the requests for a sequel had been driven by an appreciation for the world I had built and the characters who lived in it, but the story I had told in that world with those characters had reached its conclusion. There was simply nothing more to tell, and I didn't want to end up back in massive rewrite land like I had with my abandoned epic fantasy (that shall never see the light of day). Plus, I liked where I had left things. I liked where I had left the characters who had managed to survive the novel (because quite a few did not make it out alive). And those (few) survivors were mostly happy. I was happy. Good place to stop, right?
Then one night, as I lay in bed thinking about these same characters and what their futures might be like, a plot idea struck. A very risky plot idea, because it meant that the final chapter of The Sword and The Spark was not the final chapter in these characters’ lives, and that as all things go even in the real world, more conflicts and dangers would emerge. After all, what is a story without conflict? And this, of course, meant that the stakes needed to be high—which suggested that not all of the characters who had survived the first book would make it safely through this second story, and that once again, I would be bringing a cast of brand-new characters to life only to have them perish somewhere between the first and last pages. As in the first book, I was going to have to kill my darlings.
But I had a story. A second story.
With a somewhat bare and nebulous plot outline in hand, I slowly began work on Book 2, and I informed both my new readers as well as my prior readers that yes, there would be a sequel. I even put that little tidbit of information in my author bio, both on my website and in the back of my book. I was fully committed to the task, and with a completed book already behind me, I was sure I could do it again.
And there was much rejoicing.
Unfortunately, regret soon followed as I began to flounder. I had fallen in love with too many of the characters from the previous book as well as the fresh characters who were supposed to be driving this new story, and I was letting them wander around aimlessly so that I could enjoy them before the inevitable fall of the axe that was required to move the story along. I had already lost so many dear characters in The Sword and the Spark, so one can hardly blame me. These imaginary creations become like real people, and losing them is hard. But once again, just as it was in my long lost first attempt at writing book, I was stuck with a world and characters who lacked a driving force because they were just skirting around the story I wanted to tell. I wrote sixteen whole chapters before I realized that Book 2 was never going to happen unless I reined in both my characters and my own wishful thinking and admitted to myself that the many of the scenes I had just written were never going to happen in the finished book because some of the people in them needed to die for there to be high enough stakes and a strong enough conflict to create a compelling narrative.
I started over—not entirely from scratch, but I began to heavily revise what I had already written and store much of it as character development and backstory—essentially, the stuff that was only necessary for me as the writer to know to make things believable. I never delete what I’ve written, because it all serves a purpose, including that impressively hot and spicy romantic encounter I drafted for my sequel (which is one that I’m actually very proud of for being super hot without being graphic) that is sadly no longer going to happen because one of the characters involved is now in very big trouble for their role in murdering another character and has no time for love. In addition, another character—one who was intended to be a major player in my initial outline but had become absolutely nothing of the sort in my initial messy slog through those first sixteen chapters—suddenly wrestled the story out of my fumbling grasp and assumed control of Book 2, taking it in a very strange direction that was completely unexpected—and entirely necessary for the narrative I needed to tell. They were fulfilling the purpose for which I had invented the character in the first place.
I also simultaneously began to regret naming this character what I did because my fingers do not enjoy typing it out at all. Apologies to everyone out there who shares this character's name, by the way. I love it, I really do. I simply loathe the process of typing it. But names and characters are usually a package deal for me, and it becomes almost impossible for me to change one or the other after the fact. And rebellious typing fingers aside, this character’s strange journey has allowed me to settle into the essence of this new novel.
They also made me realize that some of the characters I wanted to keep with me really and truly needed to go. For the greater good, as they say.
It’s important for me to share here that there was a character death in The Sword and the Spark that absolutely gutted me after I wrote it. I remember plowing ahead with the next several chapters and thinking, “It’s a fake-out. I’ll find a way to bring them back. They’re not really dead. The death scene was necessary for the story, but the character is just too good to kill. I’ll bring them back.” Then, after writing a few more chapters, I eventually got over my denial, and so they remain, as the Munchkins sing, “really most sincerely dead.”
The same thing has now happened with Book 2 and the death of a key player in this new novel. I finally wrote the moment of their demise, and again I went through the same denial and thoughts of bringing this character back later, although I have come to the realization that this character death is also essential. In fact, my reluctance to kill this one character is why those first sixteen chapters were such a mess, and it’s also the reason that the revision process on this book is going to be a pretty hefty endeavor. I now see that my stubborn hesitation even in this second go at those early chapters negatively impacted the pacing and urgency at the start of this new novel, and I know this because, with this character’s expiration, the train has now well and truly left the station and it is going full speed ahead in the best possible way. Seriously, I have just written seventeen chapters in a single week, and all because I finally did the thing that I was dreading. But it’s done now. This is the way.
And so, friends, that’s where I stand with Book 2. I shall now let those of you who have finished reading The Sword and the Spark speculate on whether this essential character death is an old friend or a new one, while those of you who have not started or not yet finished The Sword and the Spark ask yourselves just what you have gotten yourselves into. And I don’t want anyone spoiling anything by discussing who you think I was devastated by in The Sword and the Spark— some of you already know. Interestingly, this one comes at approximately the same place in the new book, so, at least I’m consistent.
Also, it’s funny that a lot of the same themes are explored, but in new ways—hubris, identity, family, prophecy, murder, destiny, betrayal, guilt, friendship, and love. What can I say? I love my tragedies and tropes.
In conclusion, I will attempt to update this blog more often to keep everyone informed of my progress. In the meantime, happy reading, and Stars light your way.