The Never-Ending Story

More than once, I’ve rewritten a story. Thought it was finished, set it aside for a while, then went back to it and found ways to improve it. Writers who are making a living writing fiction don’t have the luxury of doing this, and the pros will advise you against it. Move on, they’ll tell you. Put your energy into writing something new.

That’s good advice. I’m not good at following it, that’s all. For one thing, I’m not trying to make a living as a writer. Also, as I’ve been aware for many years, I’m not a natural storyteller. A lot of the stories I try to write, when I’m attempting something new, just don’t work. Ideas that seem brilliant turn out, on closer examination, to have deep problems. So if I have a story that I know has the right ingredients, digging deeper into it may actually be, in the long run, a more productive activity.

Four years ago I finished my four-volume epic fantasy about the people whose lives are swept into new and dangerous places by the Leafstone Shield. Hired an editor, hired a cover designer, did the interior page layout, uploaded it to Amazon — done. I promised myself I would never again write anything that huge. Half a million words is enough words!

I did have two or three vague ideas about a sequel. Meery Caitledore falling overboard into the ocean in a storm, and apparently being lost and gone forever. What she would be doing on the ship remained unclear. And, you know, there could be a prequel. In Book 1 Arik tells a story about some dramatic events that his twice-great-grandfather went through. Hmm….

The story in its present form is the result of massive revisions. The original manuscript, written in 2004-05, was pretty awful. A few years later I tore it apart and started over, using the same cast of characters (mostly) and the same basic plot structure, but with an entirely new approach. That rewriting job was a very, very smart decision.

After taking notes for a month or so, I’m now contemplating turning the four-volume series into a seven-volume series. I have a rough outline for the prequel, and I now know what Meery was doing on the ship. The sequel seems to be two separate books. I have related titles for all seven of them. I’m inserting notes to myself in the four existing books where minor edits may be needed.

Scrivener is the ideal software for this, by the way. The whole project is in one massive but well-organized file. Opening up one of the “finished” manuscripts to add a note to it is a one-click process. Backing up my work at the end of the day is, again, one click. I can write scenes, put them in appropriate folders, and never have to waste a moment worrying about where they are.

If I keep at it, maybe in two or three years I’ll have a new, revised Leafstone Shield story for y’all. It’s pretty good in its present form, but there seem to be a couple of dimensions of the drama that will take it into new territory. That’s what makes it worth doing: discovering and exploring those new dimensions. Or maybe I just like hanging out with Kyura and Meery and Alixia. I may even bring back Tierolyn. If you read The Firepearl Chalice, it seems clear that when Tierolyn walks away, he’s offstage and gone. But he may still have a role to play. As does Strudabend, who is not dead. Posthilnueze is not going to pop up again, though. Kyura has killed him twice, and a third time would be redundant.

One way and another, this stuff is much more interesting than playing solitaire and wondering what I’ll have for supper. Bon appetit!

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