Prepare for a drivelling post; my train of thought got away from me so this post is a little topsy-turvey.
So. My book is ready for printing - not distribution, just a trophy copy. It has been spell-checked and formatted.
And...it is huge. Seriously. We're talking almost 800 pages. Before you scoff, it's fantasy, and a lot happens...but it does feel like I should have split it in two. The trouble is that I never wrote it with that possibility in mind so there's no specific point in the story where splitting it like that would work without rewriting about a third of the whole thing, which I admit I'm not keen to do. If an agent suggested it, I'd do it because revisions are only suggested if they're highly interested in taking it on, but as it is, I'll leave it be. It's a big revision, but not one an agent would be unlikely to suggest unless they weren't interested either way. And if they don't want it, I'm still thinking about self-publishing... so I may yet revise it. Having said that, a kindle or ebook version wouldn't really matter in terms of 'one book or two'.
But either way, I do consider this a bit of a mistake, and you have to learn from them. Every time I write I consider it as more practise - even if I were to become a best-seller, my next book would always be better, either in terms of skill or just story. So, in light of the massiveness of my recent book, I'm trying to keep the option of splitting the story into two parts in the middle of my mind for the next. I'm working on the plan for it and there's already a perfect opportunity half way through where I could split it, but while I'm not going to write it as two books, if by the time I reach that point it's already at 400 pages, I'll probably do it. Otherwise I'm treating it as one story rather than one or two books.
But that's one of the problems with splitting a story into a number of books; even for a trilogy, you need to have three beginnings and three endings. Each book has to be satisfying as a book, even if it's not satisfying as a story because obviously it won't be finished, but the reader will know that going in. But the last time I tried to write a trilogy, I wrote the first book, submitted it, it got rejected, and I abandoned it. Seriously. I have the printed version of the first book in my bookcase opposite me right now, all sad, alone and unfinished.
My logic was simple at the time: why waste my time writing a trilogy if they don't want the first book?
Well, that does make sense, but I did myself no favours when I submitted it to them. I submitted it as just one book; I didn't give them the story as a whole in the synopsis, only that of the first book, and an agent doesn't want to see cliff-hangers until they read the book itself. So of course it was going to be rejected; they had no idea what I was ultimately pitching to them. It could have had a rubbish ending - if it had an ending at all. There was no telling what they would be letting themselves in for.
As such, I'm not going to think about 'books', but 'stories'. If the next story ends up as two books, I won't know that until I'm about half way through, by which point I'll be well and truly committed. Plus the story seems so exciting (at this point - you know, the 'planning and brain-storming' stage) that I don't think I'll want to give it up.
The unfinished trilogy had potential and even my dad is disappointed that I didn't finish it. And it's too late to go back now because it was about 4 years ago that I gave up on it. I have the notes somewhere, but the idea of going backwards isn't inviting, even if I'm a little disappointed I didn't finish it. It took me 2 years - that's 2 years wasted - and I had a flick through the book just a few days ago and found myself laughing at the humour and growing immediately fond of the characters. It's a shame.
I even looked up at Seeg at the time and said "I love my writing style" - he frowned at me, but I think I should love it! I never said it was the best in the world, only that I was happy with it, that I'm proud of it. It's my voice, my attitude; it's how I want to read books. So many voices are different. Compare Richard A. Knaak to Terry Pratchett. Both fantasy writers, and yet their voices are polar opposites.
I don't need to feel bad for being proud of my hard work - no one should, whether it's natural talent or hard-won. It's just not something you should spout about often, I suppose.
Ehh. Anyway, yet again I feel like I'm blathering.
My most recent book, the one I finished months ago, the one I finished revising a couple of weeks ago, has been spell-checked and formatted and is about ready to be printed into a single trophy copy. I'll submit the first three chapters to agents when I've started actually writing my next book, which has nothing at all to do with the last. It's a new world, new people, new sciences, new threats.
I love sciences; I love the technical side of fantasy. I love magic, but I want to know where it comes from and why John and Larry have it and why Lawrence and Billy don't. I want to know how it works, and I want to know how much it can do and, if it has the power to destroy the universe, why has no one done it? And though I've never been interested in people, I find myself drawn to social sciences, too: how people view people with magic, how people with magic view people without; hierarchy, law, respect. Things like that. It builds a deeper world and paves the way for complex stories. And it seems I like complex stories. What I wrote of my trilogy was complicated and full of mystery. The book I just finished is full of secrets, and the next is full of deception. And yes, all three of those words seem to mean the same thing, but they don't.
Mystery - whodunnit? Secrets - what are you up to? Deception - hello, my name is Beth but it's really Jessica.
Different levels of the same thing, and I absolutely love it.
And villains!! I love villains. I love villains far more than heroes. Not always, but often. Sometimes they're just cooler - Naruto, Kakashi and Jiraiya are great, but the Akatsuki are awesome and I love them. I get so excited when I see them.
Sometimes the villains are just sadder - Arthas is the best villain in Warcraft, he was driven and, ultimately, corrupted through his desire to protect. It's a sad story and even when 'we' (Tirion you kill-stealing barstool) killed him in Icecrown I cried like a baby on the cutscene. And I have every time since. Every. Single. Time.
I love a villain you can pity. I don't subscribe to 'evil'. It doesn't exist in exclusivity. Unless the villain is the actual embodiment of evil, I won't accept it. I don't recall if Sauron was the embodiment of evil or not, but he's the closest thing that I will. Someone just being 'evil' isn't good enough.
Humanity (elfity, dwarfity, whatever) means that there must be passion. Passion is neither exclusively positive or negative, it's just the drive that powers the individual. A need for revenge could be driven by either the love for someone they're avenging or the hatred for someone responsible, so what the hell happened to make them need such revenge? An obsession could also be brought about by past events, a lost love, a broken promise, a betrayal. It takes heart for all of this. No, a villain may not agree with something we consider sad or hurtful, and we may not agree with something they consider to be funny. The same can be said for the next five people you see in the street. The differences don't have to be drastic, it's just a different drive, different personal histories, even simply the values someone was raised with. And if someone can hate something, they can love something.
A villain is more important than your hero. A villain is the most important detail. At the end of the day, if there's no villain there can be no hero; if there's no plot or occurrance to stop or a problem to fix, then there is no story. The villain is the root of the book, its foundation, and an 'evil' character is just pointless.
I want a villain whose death you will mourn.
I killed a number of characters in my last book, I shed a tear for about one in five - but the villain was in a league of his own. I needed a hug and I was shaken up for days. Yup, I certainly do get attached to my characters, but there's nothing wrong with that unless you can't bring yourself to end them. Growing too fond and being unable to let them go, that's when a problem comes in. You keep writing just to keep them alive, you can't let them die when they need to. Roleplayers suffer from the same thing, and it's something I learned through Seeg about 6 years ago and really took to heart. "You have to respect your characters enough to let them die" - that's what he said, and he was exactly right.
I'm rambling again. I'm just excited!! I'm nervous, yes, but excited. Printing even just a personal copy of my book, the thought of submitting it in about 4 months, planning and starting a new story - it's all daunting, but it's exciting.
So very, very exciting.