Monday, July 29, 2013

Coming and Going

One of the “problems” I did not foresee when I took up writing is living in multiple stories at the same time. All fiction writers, perforce, must live in the world they are creating on the page and the actual world. (Although some use alcohol and drugs to try to avoid the actual world.) I understood and had no problems with that phenomenon. The issue I’m currently dealing with is more complex, and I can only imagine what happens to writers with multiple series.

Bad Policy had its debut March of this year. That is the story readers are currently enjoying. When I talk to people, or participate in panels at conferences or in author events at bookstores, it is the Bad Policy story people want to talk about.

My proposed book cover
let me know if you like it
Cabin Fever is being edited. This week I worked through the second set of issues my editor wanted me to address. For much of this week I have been honing the writing of this second book. I enjoy that process because the end result is a stronger book. The Upper Peninsula of Michigan is the setting for this story (which fits with my current real world experience). However the story is set in winter, which is a bit difficult to imagine as the temperatures hover in the high eighties. As I write this, I am taking time out from the final read-through before I send Cabin Fever back to the editor for round three.

So here I am in three worlds: the real world in which I am trying to live, story one that readers want to talk about, and story two that has some of the same characters as story one, but a different locale.

But wait! There’s more!

I am 50,000+ words into the first draft of story three, which I am calling Doubtful Relations. Same protagonist and many characters from Bad Policy re-appear. This story starts in Cincinnati and moves to Savannah and is set in late spring. At least summer weather in the U.P is not dissimilar to spring weather in Savannah.

Real world, story one, story two, and story three to keep straight.

The main character, Seamus McCree, changes as the stories progress. One of the difficulties for me is making sure the changes in book three don’t leak into book two during the editing. Another difficulty for me is that readers of Bad Policy know that story much better than I do. They’ve just read it and my last read was shortly before its publication when I read the final galley proofs. I’m starting to forget minor character names, or refer to them by early versions of their names, forgetting they changed somewhere along the way.

This is when the time I spent entering all of my stories’ characters, locales, businesses, and such into spreadsheets really helps me keep on top of who’s who. I even use a red font for characters now deceased. The more I write, the more red font gets used.

I’ve always been a bit squirrely, but these parallel universes are not making it easier on me. Am I unique, or do other writers have the same problem? And readers, do you ever talk to an author and wonder if you don’t know their worlds better than they do?

~ Jim
(originally appeared in Writers Who Kill blog)

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