An Update In August


This morning I got to do something very special: change my pen’s ink cartridge. It always feels a little auspicious – slinging that much ink is an achievement every time.

(Also, when a cartridge-fed pen runs out, refilling it feels adult and responsible. When a disposable pen runs out, it’s always, ALWAYS frustrating. Get refillable pens!)

So, as you likely noticed, I spent much of this past month taking the lessons I learned from working out how I worked on Dog Country and trying to apply them. One of the most significant things I figured out is that I need to treat the ‘rough’ outlining process, where I’m gathering up notes, as a stage of development in its own right instead of just a thing that happens to get to a final outline.

Since I’ve started working with a dedicated rough outline for the space opera I’ve managed to tear out and replace a fairly large chunk of plot that needed it, connected events up between the four books, stitched together elements of foreshadowing and intertextual references back and forth, and generally done good things.

I originally thought there was one secret society? It turns out there’s two, in shadowy conflict. My order of mystics has turned out more like squabbling cliques than a unified church of like-minded thinkers and as a result they now have intriguing betrayals and squabbles amongst themselves, let alone the rest of the plot. A previously ‘minor’ viewpoint character now has the opportunity to carry the burdens of complex politics thanks to working out that the Merchant-Guilds he works for are taking everybody’s money, not just the good guys’ cash.

Much as all this is good progress, though, I’m looking back at my seasonal writing system, which I mentioned at the start of the year. The basic idea is that I chop the year into three segments – January to May, May to September, September to January. One project per segment, and the reason for that was that I sometimes get decision paralysis because writing thing A sounds great, but what about thing B and C? What if I never get around to B and C? I can’t leave thing B and C to never get written!

Well, I realized that I needed to take extra time on the space opera – as it kept growing on me, and has kept growing on me, it is a project that will take way, way more than four months, or eight months, or twelve months to finish. This current stretch – May to September – was the ‘extra’ season to devote to the space opera. Has it been worthwhile? Yes, I have approaching 60 000 words (maybe 70?) of outlines, scribbly notes, world bibles, character references…

And that is great. It is really going places. But it is also eating up so much time and I’m starting to worry about B, and C, and D, and E, and F… and I think I need to spend my next season, September to January, on a different project, or maybe little projects, before getting back into the Space Opera for January to May next year. 

If ‘A’ is the space opera, Legacy of a Silver Age, somehow turned to four book series, then ‘B’ would be a novel about swashbuckling Mr. Scapes (although that, frankly, wants to be a series and is liable to run away with me too…) ‘C’ would be a patchwork novella about a character named Troy from the same setting as Dog Country, ‘D’ would be a cyberpunk thing I have most of an outline for already developed for called Aconite Braid, ‘E’ would be some kind of horror piece about a character named Schuyler, inspired by staring into the cracks in the walls and wondering what horrible things are on the other side, ‘F’ would be a sort of modern urban fantasy thing about a Wizard King in London, ‘G’ would be a sort of Mil-SF thing with weird alien overlords who are rebelled against, ‘H’ would be a horrific post apocalyptic thing involving flensing knives, ‘I’ would be a thing about the ruins of a society who are negotiating the death of their society by crafting a memorial Eden they can plant before they go…

I’m thinking maybe Aconite Braid? It’s got space elevators, and I remember getting pretty far with it last year before inspiration for the flensing knife thing distracted me… but I’m not sure where to go with this alphabet.

I do know that I’d like to do something with tangible results, rather than a pile of secretive notes I can’t show you all, at least. I’ll figure it out.

In the meanwhile, as ever, thank you all so much for your support. When I have a bad day I look up and take note of the thumbtacks with all of your initials and all in the corner of my corkboard, and it helps. <3

Hope you have a wonderful month ahead!

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By foozzzball

Malcolm Cross, otherwise known as 'foozzzball', lives in London and enjoys the personal space and privacy that the city is known for. When not misdirecting tourists to nonexistant landmarks and lurking at bus stops, Malcolm enjoys writing science fiction and fantasy with a furry twist.