Once again, I am contemplating splitting Shades across more than one book. I’ve thought about this before, and talked about it on LiveJournal. I decided then that the segments of the story weren’t complete enough to stand alone, and abandoned the idea. But now that pesky YA word count problem is cropping up again. I’m honestly not sure I can keep Shades even under 150,000 words without sacrificing story elements, stuff that I want to be in there. Yeah, maybe the story could be told without some of that stuff…maybe it’s not absolutely, positively, vitally necessary stuff…but it just wouldn’t be the same story. Not to me. I don’t believe in sacrificing story just because the publishing industry doesn’t think 16-18 year-olds won’t read long books. (Maybe they should try it sometime!)
While doing this rewrite, I’ve been raising stakes wherever I can: on Saeli, on Raphel, on Aschamon. In doing so, however, I’ve made the buildup to the portal scene much more intense. At this point, that scene is going to function like a climax, whether I want it to or not. And having a climactic scene in the middle of this book is risky, cause I will have established a level of tension that I probably won’t be able to maintain for the rest of the story. This first part could function as its own story now…not a stand-alone, but it has a beginning, middle, and end, and the ending does resolve what the characters set out to do (successfully portal onto another world).
If I combine Dheu and Caosgi into a second book, and have the ending complete the trilogy, it could work. Right now the first section of the second draft stands at 60,499 words…once I get it done, it will probably be somewhere in the 80,000 range (which is the recommended top end for YA). The Dheu and Caosgi stories together come out to 99,478 words, but that’s still including a whole section of Dheu that I’m planning to nix. With a good rewrite, I could probably make it about the same length as the first section. The ending has 35,422 at present, but it’s not done. I doubt it will be as long as the other two sections, but if I can get it up to 50,000 words, it will fall within YA guidelines.
The first book, then would tell the story of Saeli’s falling in with Raphel, her subsequent falling away from and eventual exile from her school (symbolized, specifically, by her relationship with Brendan), and her departure from Verre. The second book would pick up on Dheu, and chronicle Raphel’s quest and his rise to immortality. The third book would then be about Saeli’s quest to bring Raphel down. Each of these is its own story, and though they ought to be read in order to really get the whole picture, I think I could write them in such a way that one could still follow the bare bones of each story without having read the others. Robin Hobb’s Assassins, Liveship, and Tawny Man trilogies are like that…you get the gist of the characters and where you are in the story even if you haven’t read the others. In fact, I broke my own rule with the Tawny Man trilogy, and read the second book first (I couldn’t find a copy of the first, and I really, really wanted to read it). And yeah, there was a lot of odd stuff mentioned that I figured had happened in the first book, but I was never lost, per se.
There is, however, the whole “no one will buy a trilogy from an unknown author” problem. Well, Shades is just going to be one of those difficult stories, isn’t it? It’s either too long for its intended audience, or it’s a trilogy. Both situations compound the already inherent difficulty of breaking into the publishing industry. Right now, I honestly think that Shades is compelling enough to sell as a trilogy….and I think it has a better chance of being read as three average-length books than it does as one uber-long book. And this way, I can start pitching Book 1 to agents sooner rather than later. The first draft is pretty much written, and rewriting (while taking longer than I would like) does not take me as long as writing. I’m also hoping that the latter sections of the story won’t need full rewrites…just trimming and polishing.
And meanwhile, I can start working on Mask of Eldarmarch and Dragon Singer. I’m actually more enthused about Dragon Singer right now…Mask is such an easy, straighforward story, and most of it is already pretty well thought out, that my adventuresome writer’s bone is going “meh”. But it’s a solid story, and it raises some interesting questions about loyalty, trust, and love. I’m sure I’ll get more excited once I reacquaint myself with the material (it happened with Shades, heh).
I even picked a starting place for Dragon Singer and started writing the other day, just a few paragraphs. Got Rane, Zeke (his griffin), and Avie all on paper (Avie = A.V. = “audio-visual”…she’s in charge of all the speaker equipment). In just a few lines of dialogue, Rane has established himself as careful, methodical, and someone who sticks to the rules. Within that context, however, he’s an extraordinarily brave individual (tell him to go face a dragon and he will, without hesitation…but only after he’s double and triple-checked his griffin saddle-strap). I can already sense the shape of Rane’s internal journey. His personality is easy-going, and his soul is wide open to the world…Rane doesn’t have anything to hide, and he probably isn’t very good at hiding things anyway. I’ll bet he’s a horrible liar, which will make his eventual goal to bring down F.a.N.G down all the harder for him. (This will immediately separate Dragon Singer from Prison Break, where the Corrupt Corporation plotline was lifted from. Michael Scofield was also one of those heart of gold guys, but he had such a closed, mysterious air that you never really knew WHAT he was thinking about). It will be interesting to see how Miriam does on paper, because she’s a whole lot more secretive in general, and she’s walking into this story with skeletons in her closet.
It just means they’re a good match for each other.
Over the next few days, I’m going to be working on the conference program like a madwoman. Most of the layout and artwork is basically going to be lifted from the registration bulletin I did, so it won’t be so bad. Just plugging in new content.
I also will be working on a pitch for Shades…which I’ve got to rethink, now that I’m going to split it. The first three sentences from my Writing Projects page will probably do well enough for a Book 1 pitch…maybe alter the last line to mention the portal form.