What it took

As I near completion of my second novel, End of the Warm Season, and as I near a decision on how to publish its precursor, The Wedge in the Doorway (see introduction, chapter 1, chapter 2 and chapter 3), I thought it would be interesting to give some details about what was—is involved with such an endeavor: a first novel that starts a series of novels at least six books long, in this case The Breaking of Worlds.

First, some technical details about the unedited manuscript:

The Breaking of Worlds I: The Wedge in the Doorway is over 227,000 words long, not including acknowledgements, dedications, epigraphs, about the author, and other typical pieces and parts found in a novel.  Accepting the standard average of 250 words per page, the tome weighs in at a hefty 909 pages.  But that industry average assumes certain printed font sizes, margins, line spicing and other tricks publishers use to manipulate book lengths.  Therefore, despite the word count, the manuscript will probably equate to a shorter novel, albeit still a healthy volume.

In addition, final editorial changes have not been made, thus content shortening will still take place.  As someone who believes the story is more important than someone’s idea of appropriate length, don’t expect a great deal of cutting.

As the manuscript now stands, the book is 60 chapters long—with an epilogue, so technically 61 chapters long, and it’s broken into three major sections, currently parts one through three (though I’m considering calling them acts or something else since I intend to carry this practice forward throughout the remainder of the series).

Second, some general details about the initial manuscript:

Although a weighty tale, The Wedge in the Doorway is a beginning rather than a whole.  It not only narrates a story, but it establishes a much larger mythology whilst simultaneously presenting questions without answers.  These questions and others as yet unasked will be answered in the continuing series.

In addition, the book offers more than a few clues about what to expect in the remainder of the series, although many of these clues are disguised, ambiguous and obscure, most included as pertinent details of the book and therefore not obvious foreshadowing (which I hate—obvious foreshadowing, I mean—though I’ll use it when and if appropriate).

And finally, some interesting facts and figures about what it took:

When I reintroduced its predecessor, the digital novella “Darkness Comes to Kingswell,” I explained that the original story had 50,000 words and spanned 90 pages, but that it grew from those humble beginnings into something else.  But what it grew into could not stand alone since the epic would consist of at least six novels.  So here’s what I had to create to support this endeavor.

(1) A relational database of character names.  At 3.5 MB in size and containing over 2,100 records, this has more than paid for the time it took me to develop the application.  The database not only contains names and descriptions of my characters, but it also links records based on how the characters are related.  For example, I can look up the main character, Dave Crichton, and from his record I can jump to the records of his parents, Sam and Monica, his dead wife Beth (under both her married name and her maiden name), and even to those not in his nuclear and extended families, relationships like his housekeeper Bea Alten and his attorney Lydia Hagerup.

But the database provides more than just data about existing characters; it also provides a running list of available (unused) names as well as names based on where they were used (by novel and by series), since I don’t want to reuse a name in the same series but can certainly reuse it—or something similar—in a different work.  And since the application provides references according to actual name as well as phonetic name (how it sounds) and similar name (how it’s spelled), it simplifies managing a large cast of characters by ensuring I don’t duplicate names or use very similar names whilst also ensuring I have ready access to each character and their descriptions, like who they’re related to and how they look and sound.

(2) Architectural diagrams of Carr Beholden.  If you’re not already aware, Carr Beholden is Dave Crichton’s home, an old lakeside hotel turned into a residence.  It has secrets, only a few of which are revealed in the first book.  To keep me consistent on which way someone should turn when exiting the kitchen while heading to the sunroom, I found it necessary to draw the entire home from top to bottom, basement to roof, as well as the surrounding grounds and the other buildings on the property.  This also ensured I was consistent in speaking to size, to where things were, to referencing features and directions, and so on.

At 5.7 MB and containing fifteen separate drawings, these diagrams are quite detailed with regards to the structures and their contents.  They show where every piece of furniture sits, where every door and window are located, where every wall connects and where every step leads.

Yes, I intend to post those diagrams at a later time as means to show you Carr Beholden as it exists in the story (to augment descriptions in the narrative).

(3) Map data for King’s Hope.  Having created a new East Texas town in which this series will take place, it behooved me to ensure—like the house—that I spoke consistently about where things are in the hamlet and how to get from point A to point B.  Every neighborhood, every farm-to-market road, every business and every residence is painstakingly mapped within the confines of the real world (existing state highways and natural features surround the town while the imaginary world is drawn precisely inside those walls).  Want to know how to get from Carr Beholden, Dave Crichton’s home, to the Crichton Farm, his parents’ home?  The map will tell you precisely what roads and what directions are necessary, as well as every home and business and town feature you’ll pass along the way.

At 1.5 MB and containing three separate drawings, this map will continue to grow as need arises to create new places, new businesses, new areas.

And yes, like the Carr Beholden diagrams mentioned above, I intend to share the maps of King’s Hope.  In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if a simplified map is included in each of the novels so a frame of reference is available (because the whole series takes place in the town with only a few exceptions, so it might help to have a visualization included).

(4) Story notes.  For The Wedge in the Doorway, the notes document is 131 pages long.  The first 13 pages contain various tidbits, like timelines, brief descriptions of various groups and factions, suggestions about potential subplots and character interactions, and other factoids, linguistic references and mental detritus.  The remaining 118 pages contain scraps—bits of the story originally written into the manuscript then later removed for one reason or another.  At least 15 pages of these scraps have already been removed and added to the second manuscript, End of the Warm Season, thus my reluctance to simply delete them and move on as though they never happened; they contain elements of the mythology, back story, character histories and such that could end up in future installments of the overall tale.

(Of note: Each of the six novels has its own notes document, with the documents becoming progressively more sparse the further into the epic you go.  Mind you, I roll the notes forward if I don’t use them, and I also add to them as ideas come to me—regardless of where in the narrative those ideas fit.)

(5) Odd & ends text documents.  The Wedge in the Doorway has three extraneous text documents: epigraphs (where I originally made note of the epigraphs I wanted to use and continually changed them until I was happy), King’s Hope roads (which simply lists the various road names and FM, CR and RR numbers), and lucid dreaming study (which I used as I brainstormed about how to write the news article about lucid dreaming).

End of the Warm Season already has one text document—presidential speech—though I’ll spare you the details about what’s in that one (though you can feel safe in assuming it contains a speech from the President of the United States).

(6) Manuscript copies.  Each novel has its working life as a valid manuscript: Times New Roman 12 point, double-spaced, margin formatting only to offset special areas, no extra fonts … Well, you know, the usual.  But each manuscript also gets converted into two additional copies: a review copy and a formatted copy.

The formatted copy gets extra treatment.  Additional fonts are introduced where appropriate (e.g., to indicate handwritten text) as well as paragraph and page formatting.  In essence, it’s the typesetter version were I doing my own desktop publishing.

The review copy is the formatted copy with pertinent sections redacted or removed, such as dedications, acknowledgements and about the author.  This is the copy I share with friends and family who wish to read the manuscript.

(7) Bookmarks.  And I mean a lot of bookmarks.  The web is my playground, most notably as an investigative and research tool.  For instance, King’s Hope is inserted into East Texas history as a renegade sister town of Jefferson.  In order for that to work, the history of Jefferson is essential so a history for King’s Hope can be made real and believable.  In The Wedge in the Doorway, our beloved attorney Clement Doubleday launches into that history before Dave cuts him off—a section of the book you’ll see at a later time, either here or in the published work.  Though Clement doesn’t get the opportunity to finish his historical narrative, the entire thing is written and ready, either to be used in full or as reference material.  But for that history to make sense and to fit in with Jefferson’s real history, I had to fully understand Jefferson.  The web provided that.

Another example is mythology.  The Breaking of Worlds is based on a simple premise which I have shared before: “If Greek mythology teaches a single unflinching truth, it is that mortals and gods never live peacefully together.  Most people have forgotten this lesson, but the gods have not.  The war against humanity has begun.”  And while it might imply my mythology is based on Greek mythology, that impression is false, for this description only uses Greek mythology as an example.  What The Breaking of Worlds will do is take a myriad of mythologies and scramble them together into a completely new mythology, all the while relying heavily on what we think we know based on the original mythologies.

Although The Wedge in the Doorway only touches on this lightly, it becomes all the more evident in End of the Warm Season where Native American and Celtic mythologies play central and combined roles.  This practice will grow steadily throughout the series (and is briefly touched upon in the first novel as we are introduced to some gods who use several mythologies to describe themselves).

On and on the list goes …  The point being that the web is a major tool for me, from science and technology to mythology and history.  Without it, suspension of disbelief would be hard to accomplish without significant investment in research time at the local library—amongst other places.

And there you have it, poppets.  That’s what it took to get where we are today.  The Breaking of Worlds moves ahead at a steady clip, writing taking place at every opportunity, the first novel complete and looking for a publishing home, the second novel near completion, and the series growing according to plan.

Is this series the crux of my novelistic endeavors?  Hardly!  I’ve already started a separate novel about a supercolony of ants, though that’s all I’m going to say about that.  I’ve also started a comedic novel entitled Poison Ivy and the Broken Throne, something my family knows about and endorses, though they don’t know how I’ll treat the final tale.  Two other ideas are bubbling up in notes documents, one about aliens and one about death.  So The Breaking of Worlds is only the start and other works could pop up while I finish that series.  Only time will tell.

And now I have to go back to The Wedge in the Doorway … to see if I should post more after the third chapter.  I’d considered up to ten chapters—even the whole thing—but I have to figure out what I’m doing with it and how much I’m willing to share while I’m considering its disposition.

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