Worked a little on three different books this week, Dragonsgate, Squire, and Nobody Nowhere. I'm still a little nervous about not staying focused on one project alone until it's done, but so far I'm pretty happy with everything I'm doing and satisfied with my word count.
With Dragonsgate, I'm finally hammering down exactly why each character is in the novel. You think that's something I'd figure out before I started writing the book, but sometimes when I write characters just show up and stick around, volunteering to do more work. On the flip side, I also have legacy characters who wind up in the book just because they were in the previous books and I feel like I should do something with them. These are frequently more challenging because, if I did my job right in the previous book, they've already had a character arc that resolved their emotional conflict and brought them to whatever goal they were pursuing in the last book. Finding a new challenge and motivation that grows out of their previously stated goals can be tricky.
Two of my characters, Anza and Zeeky, have really just been along for the ride in this book. I'd given them surface reasons to be present, but hadn't really dug deeply into their emotions, and why the mission they are on is important to them. This week, I finally got my handle on Zeeky. Anza, though, is still shrugging off most to the emotional conflicts I keep offering her. I feel like if I can find her grand goal, the book is really going to come to life. But, who knows? It might be the second draft before she decides to play along. I might just have to write a draft where she does what she needs to do to advance the plot and figure out why she's doing it later. Step one of writing a good novel is to first write a bad novel. There are a hundred balls you have to keep in the air while you juggle all the elements of a book. Sometimes you just need to let a ball drop if you want to keep the other 99 in the air.
Squire is turning into an interesting project. I've made a decision to keep the chapters short, under 1500 words. This isn't completely arbitrary. I'm hoping to target some younger readers with this series, and writing short is forcing me to keep things simple and direct. I think my ordinary style is pretty readable, but I'm also aware that I can be somewhat wordy. A lot of my epic fantasy chapters get close to 6000 words. Part of this is because of the "epic" modifier. A have large casts and lots of plot threads and take time to describe exotic creatures and settings. Squire is going to have a single POV character and a much smaller cast than my previous fantasies. It will still be recognizably epic fantasy, but streamlined.
My last project, Nobody Nowhere, has been the most fun to write so far. It's still in the early stages of character introduction and plot initiation. My challenge with it will be deciding how many POV characters I want to use. I've already introduced three. I feel certain I need at least one more. But the book has so many interesting characters the temptation is to give them all a little POV time. There are artistic reasons to restrict the POV characters, but another part of me is wondering just how big a mess I'd create if I just went for it and crammed in a dozen POVs. Oh well. Well see. The best way to find out is just to keep writing!
Reading update: Didn't get to listen to more of Master and Margarita because I had a bunch of chapters of the audio version of Dragonseed to listen to this week. But, I'm close to a quarter of the way through Roots now. It's definitely a great book, but the pacing lags in parts. I can only assume there are some really big time jumps later in the book if this story is supposed to follow the family through to the present day.