First of all, I'll open with my decision to take a bit more time off – partly because I had a lot of stuff stockpiled to do, but more because I was still heavily pondering 'Step'. I've been trying to work out some more details of the plot – basically, not giving any spoilers, I'd written myself into a massive gaping plot hole. I knew the beats of the story that I wanted to put out, but was running into serious problems connecting the dots; the final straw came when I realised that I was taking too much inspiration from 'Price of Admiralty', not a good thing – this needs to be a book in its own right, and I was running serious risk of taking elements from the plot of the first book. So – I decided to stop for a couple of days and seriously rethink the next two-thirds of the book. I'm actually pretty happy with the first third of the book, already completed, but needed to tie up the plot threads I had come up with in a different way than I had originally thought...given that now, it just didn't work. Me getting some time on the new version of Kerbal Space Program (see above) had nothing to do with it – it was just a convenient distraction.
Plots are always ninety percent perspiration, ten percent inspiration – mind you, most of life's tasks can be described in that way. In this case, the key inspiration came at about half past one in the morning, one glorious moment that tied in the plot threads I had already considered, heightened the 'moment of decision' for Marshall considerably, and allowed me to work in all the character beats I had been planning to incorporate into this book. One of the big elements of this book – and hopefully, this series – is that the characters are meant to evolve as time goes by. Not that each book shouldn't be a stand-alone, that is a very different thing, but there doesn't seem much point having a series if the characters don't evolve over time. I have some fairly set ideas about how all the major characters will evolve, and there are a few others I am beginning to give increased consideration to – of course, some of them will not make it all the way through the series, for one reason or another – and making sure that such moves are handled correctly is also extremely critical.
Frustratingly, I can't discuss the flash of insight – it is now the key twist in the final quarter of the story – but I can tell you how it came about. I started talking to myself. Now the picture of me talking to myself in a mirror in the bathroom in the middle of the night is a rather worrying one, but I find it essential. Talking through dialogue is the only way to make sure it sounds credible, the best way to put yourself into the mind of your characters – and it was in the middle of doing this with one of the conversations near the end of the book that I had the moment that probably saved the book. I was actually seriously considering starting over – which would have been a pity, because I might have come up with some elements for a spin-off, and I really don't want to sacrifice them. Not saying that it will happen, but it's on my 'to ponder' list.
So, another day to mull over the ramifications, and then full speed ahead again.