March 6th, 2009


Plotting, pacing, and quantum uncertainty.

Last night -- following our regular Thursday dinner of Tasty Indian Food (tm) and the ceremonial watching of the season premiere of cycle twelve of America's Next Top Model -- Kate and I began discussing the current state of Late Eclipses of the Sun, which is to say, spread out across my laptop like a patient etherized upon a table. I'm doing heavy, heavy surgery on this book, which is making it steadily better, smoother, and more compelling, but is still getting blood all over everything.

(If you're wondering, and don't feel like going digging, Late Eclipses of the Sun is the fourth Toby book. The first, Rosemary and Rue, is the one that's coming out September first [Amazon]|[Mysterious Galaxies]. The second is A Local Habitation, and the third is An Artificial Night; they've both been turned in to my editor at DAW. The second trilogy starts with Late Eclipses, and then runs The Brightest Fell and Ashes of Honor. What, me plan ahead?)

In an effort to explain what was happening in Late Eclipses, I basically ran down what had already changed, what was planned to change, and what needed to happen in book five, since book four sort of sets a lot of that up. This wound up turning into a review of the events planned for books four through six, with notes on what had changed. It was sort of fascinating, in an abstract sort of a way, because a lot of what I do in terms of series outlining is best defined as pebbles in ponds. I create ponds -- these are the overall stories, the things I want to have happen when everything is said and done. I get a pile of pebbles -- the characters, specific situations, and little complications. And then I stand on the shore, throwing rocks at the water, and watching where the ripples go. Thing is, the pebbles keep getting bigger, and the patterns of the water are very rarely what I would have initially expected. Plus, sometimes I change my mind. It's all very quantum.

To be quite clear, I really do know where I'm going, and I always know where the ending is, what's happening, and why. It's just that the details of the journey change, and that makes me very, very happy. I like to be surprised by my characters! I like to know that the things they do have a purpose, and seeing the moments where everything shifts really keeps me engaged. Sure, I could try to yank everything back on-track to get so some pre-determined 'perfect scene,' but what would be the fun in that?

Let us go then, you and I, when the evening is spread out across the sky...