It’s pretty intimidating trying to write. In fact, my first attempt at writing started a year earlier than TCOTU with an ill-conceived urban dark novel. When I first began, I had no idea of what I was getting into or even what I was trying to accomplish. That novel collapsed at about Chapter 3, when I realized that not having a plan makes your writing seem a lot like you didn’t have a plan.
From the ashes of that book rose old-fashioned concepts like “outlines” and “planning ahead.” When I picked the pen back up, I went into TCOTU with some very simple and definite goals:
1. The first book would be simple. I wasn’t ready for ambitious. I wanted something obtainable and so I structured a novel that took place on one ship in one star system with essentially one foe. I wanted to focus on one character (Heskan). You may have noticed, in the first half of the book, the narrative never leaves Heskan. As I grew more comfortable, I started shifting the scenes from him but only briefly. By the beginning of the last third of Book 1, I was ready to bring more of the other characters to life, especially Vernay, who I knew would be a significant focus in the series.
2. The second book would be the book that I always wanted to write. I have always wanted to write massive fleet battles in space. With the first book under my belt, that now felt accomplishable. It might not be War and Peace (for sure!), but I am very proud of NWTSAW. The scope of the book explodes and many more characters are brought into the story along with an expansion of the universe. As much as I will always love the first book, Book 2 is where the series really “begins.”
3. The third book would be about relationships. I also wanted an opportunity to attempt to write close combat actions. Book 3 (which my wife calls my best) grows each character. Writing action and battles are one thing, writing interesting character development is another. Book 3 was my slated practice of making characters grow. It’s an art, and I am still working on it, but with experience comes proficiency.
4. Book 4 was writing a “caper” book. I knew Book 4 wasn’t going to be a shoot-em-up. It couldn’t be. The characters were on an unarmed freighter. What I wanted was to write a story where the action was through clever and daring plans coming together. It was also good practice at further character development. A lot happens to these characters in Book 4. Relationships grow and die in this novel. The question for me was, would the readers care? I was awfully nervous about Book 4 because if you don’t care about the relationships among the characters or where the story is headed, the book must be incredibly boring. I’m really thankful that most of my readers seem to have enjoyed the book.
5. So that brings us to Book 5. To be honest, I only have two goals for this book. The first is to write a worthy and fun ending for the series. It deserves it. The second is to answer all of the major questions remaining for the reader. There won’t some cliff-hanger trying to lure a reader into buying my next book. If readers enjoy my books, they’ll buy the next one on their own accord. The only hint at my next book will be that the title of it will be in this book. I assume that my readers have noticed that the title of my next book is always mentioned inside the book before it. (The only exception is Book 1 for obvious reasons, although the phrase “this corner of the universe” appears very early in the book and, of course, “no way to start a war” appears at the end.)
Those were and are my goals for each book. Maybe not lofty by any means but I’ve learned so much from each book so far that I can’t help but think these lessons will make my next books and series better.