In the halcyon days of my writing youth, gripped by The Muse and heaping loads of caffeine, I leapt from one world to another chasing plots and characters in the way Edison chased inventions: you'll fail a bunch, but some will succeed and that will make all the difference.
After making all the appropriate sacrifices to The Muse, I wound up with a few stories that did succeed. Real novels. Stories that had a plot going from beginning to end, characters that did things. Words on pages in coherent sentences (mostly).
However, The Muse is a fickle creature. Often willing to drop a tantalizing universe, she (or he, or it), upon granting enough inspiration for a novel, will dart off to the next thing. This alone is not a problem: universes can be returned to, right? The Muse eventually comes back, does she not?
With enough cajoling, I think, the answer is yes. My stories tend to emerge as plotted and organic blends, a loose shell filled in by spur-of-the-moment invention. During the first trip into a universe, The Muse and I have a delightful time spicing up the place, adding in little flourishes, window dressing, giant world-devouring alien creatures. Then, the story complete, she'll pull me to another new universe so we can have that dance again.
It's taken time (some twenty plus novels and shorts now), but The Muse and I have come to terms. There will still be new universes, yes, but they will come after we've finished the stories to tell in the universes we already have. At least to a good stopping point.
With Sever Squad, that meant sticking with it after Drop Zone and Helix Strike to ride out the adventure to the end with straight releases. I'm wrapping up The Hero's Code now with two longer novels, creating a four book series. Next comes The Farthest Star, a novel I released last fall about a ship launched to the galaxy's far fringe and what's left after thousands of years on the move.
I've talked a bit before about how going back to a universe brings challenges. Continuity, voice, setting, feel, all are crucial for a reader who picks up volume one and goes right on through without knowing the time I took between trips to The Far Horizons (that's the trilogy's name, folks).
By now The Muse and I have done this dance enough times that we've settled on a method: line-editing the stuff I'd already written. I say 'line-editing' instead of reading because the latter implies a joyful romp, whereas line-editing hits the focus I'm looking for. Not just details, but word choice. Dialogue tendencies. Flavor.
I do all this with a fresh print copy, pen in hand. Electronic editing is never quite as good (I find) as having a paper copy right there. This means anyone looking to rob my personal library will find my own titles marked up all over, a clever deterrent to book thieves everywhere.
If there's a fault to this plan, it lies in the time (doesn't everything?). Adding an additional book to go through and edit while maintaining an aggressive writing and publishing schedule is just, well, a lot. So that's why I've had a chat with The Muse and we're going to keep our energies focused.
Tell our stories in full, enjoy every ounce of the universes we create, and then dash right on to the next one, satisfied we haven't left threads behind.
For those keeping track, yes, the next two books coming after The Hero's Code (those now in editing) will be finishing The Far Horizons trilogy. It's a delicious cyberpunk far-future sci fi story, and you can find it just about everywhere.
Happy Friday, folks.