I suspect I’m not the only writer to end up with more material than ever ends up in the finished book, and I’m not talking about routine editing, but whole chapters that get excised. It looks very much as if this is going to happen again with ‘Ghost Ship’, though in this case...it’s more a re-evaulation of the whole plot that renders the chapters I wrote no longer suited for the book. I never simply delete anything, though - often sentences or paragraphs can find their way back in again later on, either because I like the line, or to serve a plot point, or simply because I’m rewriting the chapter in a different way.
In ‘Ghost Ship’, I got most of the way through Chapter Two when I realized that it just wasn’t working, was too talky. The solution - strip out two of the characters in the scene, make it a two-hander, and change the location so that they were doing something - previously it was four people meeting up at a bar. Of course, now the new chapter is out of the book as well, but that’s a plot re-evaluation, not uncommon - it happened with ‘Stars in the Sand’ and ‘Sacred Honor’, as well as with ‘Triple-Cross’, actually. Sometimes, I write a chapter - like it - but realize that it just doesn’t work. I had a bad case of that with ‘Stars in the Sand’, actually.
There was a chapter in the book - some spoilers - that had Orlova sneaking out to conduct reconnaissance on City Hall late at night, when she ran into a woman being mistreated by a guard. It’s a good chapter, a strong one, but Orlova ended up acting a lot more ruthlessly than seemed to fit with her character, not without introducing a new character arc. There was already a lot going on in that book - which really was focused on Marshall and Cooper, anyway - and it was about four-fifths of the way in. So...the chapter went into the ‘Deleted Scenes’ file. I
’m straying from the topic a bit here, but it goes to the very nature of plotting; books need to be about something, and I’m not talking about the core plot, the storyline. There needs to be something deeper there, something to explore, and that is usually where the characters come in. For both Cooper and Marshall, in ‘Stars’, this was quite simply guilt - the survivor’s guilt that has been building up for both of them for the last few books. Marshall has given orders that have led to the death of members of his crew, and at the back of his mind he is questioning those decisions - and Cooper can’t understand why everyone else in his platoon has died, and he hasn’t. Compounded by his career-ending injury. Both of these arcs are reaching the end of their run (which will mean that I’ll need to think of something else, of course) and it informs their actions in this book quite strongly, especially in the final few chapters.
Character arcs are, I think, what makes a series really sing, and what ties all the different books together; it’s always something to bear in mind, especially when launching a series, I think, and as I start work on the Mercia books - about which I will be writing tomorrow - it is something that is foremost on my mind with character development. Though given that I am writing about real, albeit little-known people, there’s already something to work with because I know who the people are, and what they ended up doing. A very different art in some ways, yet in others, quite similar.
Spitfire Station is another case in point - the characters in this series are just beginning their arcs, and I’m still finding them as people in their own right. Sometimes it takes a book or two even to work out who you should be focusing on, where the key characters are - the most interesting ones, the ones I get most of a kick out of writing. Logan Winter is one of them...and while he originated in a very different series a while ago, he was adapted a bit to give me a lead for Spitfire that was very much a go-out-and-do-stuff person, rather than a sit-back-and-order. Kirk rather than Picard, even if the latter is probably a more realistic portrayal of a military commander. (If you can use that term with Star Trek, that is!) (And I still prefer Kirk anyway.)
There, I only had in mind that Logan was to be one of the characters; another of the POVs flew off to do other things in a spin-off that might or might not happen (the book will happen, though, but I’m leaning heavily towards making it Spitfire Three) and the other was enough fun that she’s a POV in Ghost Ship. As for the third, well, I’m pulling a Worf, to continue my use of Trek analogies. Which I’d always rather planned, actually - I wanted to bring a couple of the characters who had left Alamo back in, and both Cunningham and Esposito make returns in this book, the latter as a ‘new cast member’, the former as a ‘special guest star’, if you like, though I have plans for both of them in later books.
One of the fun things about this series is that I don’t always know where it is going to go. Book Twelve - which is scheduled as a cross-over - only came into my head a few weeks ago, but it’s as if it has always been there. The following books have also changed in conception, still a little bit in fluxx, but I do know that they are not what I originally planned for them. That story arc has been postponed for a bit, because I’m had some ideas to use the state of play in other ways. I’ll say no more. Yet. Oh, go on then. The basic idea - without any spoilers - is to have three three-book story arcs running through, perhaps with a couple of singles to spread them out. I have pretty firm ideas for the first two, and some thoughts for the other one. I’m not sure whether Spitfire Station is going to be taking its own path or supporting the others, that remains to be seen, though there is scope for another cross-over book at some point later on, I think.
I’d better stop now before I tell you too much! That, and I probably should get back to work...