It’s been four months since I turned in the galleys for The Enclave and really it is time to get cracking on The Next Book. Except… I woke up Monday morning realizing I was feeling very resistant to working on it. Was it because things haven’t been going as well as I’d like with Enclave’s release? Was it because my life has been so chaotic and full of distractions that I’ve been unable to really buckle down? Or is it because I’m not really supposed to be doing that book?
My plan for The Other Side of the Sky was to analogize Revelation’s seven churches in an action adventure story with an underground civilization, a floating city on the surface with shafts of light that reached into the darkness through a series of shafts and pulled people up to the planet’s barren surface, often to their deaths.There were terrorists and aliens, governmental repression and the rescue of political prisoners… I had secret identities, secret pasts, at least three viewpoint characters and possibly more and four distinct people-groups. To say nothing of the whole underground civilization that I wanted to construct.
It was beginning to seem way too complicated for the length I know Bethany House wants. And it would take much longer to write than they want, too. If I started a different book, I could do so with the intention of keeping it within the bounds of what everyone seems to want. I might even be able to write it in the time span they want me to write in.
To keep it short I would have to minimize the points of view. One would be best if I truly want brevity, but two could work. I would also have to keep a tight rein on the story’s complexity, but this is helped if you give yourself only one or two POV’s to work with. (Although The Light of Eidon had only two viewpoints and it was still long…)
Still, if I set the new story in our present world, I wouldn’t have to develop — and describe/explain — an alien world/culture, which also helps keep word count and time expenditure down… Not to say there wouldn’t be complexity and weird things… I know that because I spent a year trying to write short stories and the shortest I came up with was about 7000 words (which is a very LOOOONG short story). Complexity is something I have to fight off, not search for. Ditto weird twists.
But what would this new story be about? Hmm… could I use one of those short stories I’d started that had gotten out of hand?
I was pulling books off the shelf Monday and thought I’d get rid of Mary O’Hara’s Novel in the Making. Instead I cracked it open at random and started to read and she said…
“Two of the important decisions had now been made. The locale and the point of view… Next I had to decide what m new book would be about. That is what they ask you, “What’s it about? What is the subject?”
The Flicka books had been about horses.
Anyone might choose such a subject as horses to write about just because horses are beautiful; because they are universally beloved. But aside from liking them you have to know a great deal about them. You have to have what I called “a body of thought” about them.
This body of thought is likely to be the result of years of study or closer observation. Worthwhile thoughts do not originate in a typewriter or pour off the point of a pen, or spring into being just because someone… has the ambition to be a writer. They are accumulated during years of living, thinking, reflecting and, often, taking notes.
Unless an author happens to have had vastly wide and differentiated experiences, or is a walking encyclopedia of knowledge, there are not going to be many fields in which he has a body of thought ready and waiting. So we find young mothers writing about children; psychiatrists about mental cases; lawyers, stories with a legal slant, etc.
I had had a sufficient body of thought about horses to write about them successfully. Did I have it about anything else? Yes, I thought I did. About religion…”
That leapt last phrase off the page at me. Well, yeah, I sure have a body of thought about religion. Also faith, and I do delineate between the two. In fact, all of my books to date have been about the conflict between religion and faith.
Or maybe I should say, between religion and Christianity. Between slavery and freedom, tyranny and just, righteous authority.
The bondage of sin, legalism and cosmic thinking vs the freedom of grace.
Yeah, those elements could be there. That’s still not really a story, but it got the ball rolling…