scattered thoughts on the next Memoir

I haven’t been posting much about my progress on the fourth Memoir. (Which does have a title now, but as with Voyage of the Basilisk, I’m going to hold off on announcing it until the preceding book is released. I want people’s attention on that one, not the one that won’t be out until 2016.)

It’s a bit hard to talk about this book, because of the weird way publishing timescales work. I read reviews of The Tropic of Serpents and marvel at people who say things like [spoiler] — and then I remember that those people haven’t even read Voyage yet, let alone the one I’m presently writing. Of course the relevance of [spoiler] is not yet clear. Of course [spoiler] hasn’t developed very much yet. I’m not actually pointing at any one thing with those brackets; I could list several to fill in the blanks. I’m almost four-fifths of the way through the series. Everybody else is barely two-fifths done. What the story looks like from my perspective is wildly different from what all the rest of you see.

I had a plot epiphany the other night that is so freaking perfect, I honestly can’t believe it took me this long to come up with it. Like, how was this not part of the pitch I sent to Tor back in 2011? How was I such an idiot that I did not see this needed to be part of the story until just now? I really have no idea. Seriously, you all are going to read this book and assume I’ve been planning [x] from the start. I will smile mysteriously and try to pretend that’s true, so you don’t all know how blind I really was.

On Twitter the other night I joked that sometimes when I’m writing these books, I think about what the sensible thing to do would be . . . and then I have Isabella do the opposite. It’s funny because it’s true, to an extent. The key is mood: back when I was drafting A Natural History of Dragons, I had to keep prodding myself not to fall into Onyx Court mode. Forget subtle political maneuvering; this series needs crazy shit, yo. So the bit of plot I’m presently wrapping up right now had a moment where Isabella could have gone the cautious and sensible route, informing somebody of a suspected problem and mobilizing various resources to deal with it. But that would have created a story where she sits on her hands and then gets a report from other people that the issue has been dealt with. That? is not pulp adventure. So instead I came up with a reason for her not to tell that person what was going on — a solid enough reason, I hope, to at least pass muster for the genre — and then there were hijinks involving her tailing Person A who is tailing Person B and at the end of it all there’s an abortive brawl. Much better.

I’m also going at this in weird order. I was floundering around in the middle of the book, with Isabella out in the field doing one stage of her research — but I didn’t really know how long I should spend on that bit, and I wasn’t sure where the whole thing was going anyway (this was pre-epiphany), until finally I decided I should skip ahead and write the bit referenced in the above paragraph, since at least I knew what I was doing with that. I think I’m going to keep on from there, writing some — who knows; maybe all — of the last third of the book; then, once I have a chunk of that in place, I’ll be able to back up and know what ought to go in the middle, to set up the end. This is weird for me, y’all. I don’t write this way, out of order. Except that maybe right now I do.

Hey: whatever gets the book done.

Speaking of which, I’m about at the . . . halfwayish point sorta but not really? I have about half of the word-count, but since a chunk of that is from way later in the book, I’m not mentally at the halfway point of the story. More like the two-thirds point, possibly a bit later. But it’s starting to look like a book rather than a short story that got way out of control. And in another few days I’ll get to write the emotional resolution to one of the conflicts, which will make it a lot easier to go back and figure out the rise and fall of the stuff leading up to that. (I hope. Remember, I’m new to this method.)

Darling du jour:

“There’s a bit of difference between swimming in shark-infested water because you’re trying to retrieve something from the bottom, and staying in just because you’re already there and haven’t been eaten yet.”

“We are still trying to retrieve something from the bottom. All that has changed is whether anybody on shore cares whether we — oh, hang the metaphor.”

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