Progress in the lake

Posted on May 2, 2011 (Subscribe to Blog)

I'm continually asked how I'm doing with Lake of Spirits, so this is an update on progress so far. With last year's Mountain of Whispers I used a progress bar displaying the percentage complete, and I had a fairly solid estimated publish date. But I'm being a little more coy with Lake of Spirits to avoid putting pressure on myself.

Last night I finished Chapter 17. Since there should be around 23 chapters in all, this means I'm 74% done. Or, going by word count, I'm up to roughly 83,000, although that's a little misleading because the number usually comes down quite a bit after my first edit. To give you an idea by comparison, the first three books were between 95,000 and 106,000 words.

I'm really into the story of Jolie. Hal and his friends have wildly varying opinions of her, and these opinions... well, they vary wildly as the story progresses! Hal goes from being infatuated with her, to disliking her, to thinking she's really very nice, to hating her guts, to feeling sorry for her... and so on. Are the miengu up to something sinister, or are they just badly misunderstood? Different cultures can come to blows over simple errors in communication, or by taking offense at what is intended as an innocent gesture. The lyrics of a classic Depeche Mode song spring to mind:

People are people
So why should it be
You and I should get along so awfully

So we're different colors
And we're different creeds
And different people have different needs
It's obvious you hate me
Though I've done nothing wrong
I've never ever met you so what could I have done

I can't understand
What makes a man
Hate another man
Help me understand

At one point I feared there wasn't enough "meat" to this story, but now I see that there's plenty. Here I am about to start Chapter 18 and the tension is thick enough to cut with a knife (to coin a popular phrase). I'm feeling like a bit of a meanie too, because I'm dropping Hal and some of his friends into some really nasty trouble.

And the end of the book is looming. I'm excited about it, because of what it means for the next book in the series. Book 5 is already fleshing out in my head and I expect to get stuck into that very soon after Book 4 is published.

The process of writing, for me (and lots of other writers), is organic. I started out with a very good idea of where I was going overall, but the details of how I get from the start to the finish tend to change as I go along. Some of my ideas have fallen by the wayside, while others have "just happened" while writing. I often hear writers saying how the story literally unfolded before their eyes as they wrote. I think that's going a little far where I'm concerned, but certainly some of the situations have happened almost spontaneously, derailing me for a while... and then I've had to work to drag the story back onto the rails. Sometimes this doesn't work out and I have to delete what I wrote, but often it works just fine.

Still, it makes me wonder how many possible variations of these novels there could be if I had the time and energy to continue various trains of thought and produce multiple versions of the same book – one where Hal does x and another where he does y, thus leading to two different conclusions. In real life there would never be varying editions of the books, because nobody has that much time on their hands, but still, it would be interesting to let a bunch of readers choose which they prefer.

On that note, I had a "brilliant" idea yesterday, one I've had before but forgotten. I used to read Steve Jackson's "Choose Your Own Adventure" books back in the 1980s, and a particular title springs to mind: Citadel of Chaos (co-authored by Ian Livingstone). These books, as fat as novels, allowed the reader to get sucked into an adventure, and then after a few pages he could choose what happens next and would turn to the appropriate page. The object is to get through to a successful story conclusion after making dozens of choices along the way, but more often than not you end up dead. Since I'm a website designer, it would be child's play to have a website version of a choose-your-own-adventure based on the Island of Fog series. That is, it would be child's play in the technical sense of making it work online – but also a lot of time and effort writing the story and all the multiple endings. I wonder if something like that would be of interest to readers? Not that I'd have time to do it... :-p

Just a reminder in case you don't know, you can now view the prologue of Lake of Spirits.

Comment by MING on Monday, May 2, 2011...

You're progressing fast! And I LOVE the idea of a 'choose your own adventure' for the series - hurry up and get it going, Keith! Just teasin', take your own sweet time. :-)

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