Third Time Is Enemy Action

Making offers that you can't refuse since 1994

Making offers that you can’t refuse since 1994

For me, it’s kind of fuzzy-edged boundary between “thinking about writing a new project” and “writing a new project”, since I spend so much of my “writing” time staring off into space and listening to music instead of typing, but I think I can safely say that I have crossed the threshold and am now writing The Worms Of Heaven.

Already, though, I am finding that writing a third book in a series is a little bit different than writing a sequel, just as I found that writing a sequel is a little bit different than writing the original novel.

The main thing (so far) is that I have such a wealth of information to dump on the reader fairly quickly.  As I indicated in the teaser I posted a while back, WOH opens up with Agony Delapour being kidnapped, and James having to deal with that.

I’ve had to introduce James, and Catskinner, and Stuart Dogs, and Cobb Russwin, and Agony herself (by reputation, at least) and how they all fit together.  I’ve had to say that there alien intelligences operating on Earth, and that they work through human beings that they modify for their own purposes.  I’ve discussed orthovores,  and I’ve dropped some hints regarding ambimorphs, as well as mentioning that there are other, odder, things to be found swimming around in this tidepool.

All of this inside 4,000 words, mind you, because I want to open my second chapter with the main plot hook, and there are a lot of things that a reader has to know in order for that hook to seat.

It’s been a challenge, but it’s also been fun, because I just come right out and say things that I had to tiptoe around in the first two books.  It’s a fine line between bringing new readers up to speed and boring those who have read the first two.  On the other hand, I get to confirm things that (if I’ve done my job right) readers of the first two books suspect about my world, but I never said directly before now.

Striking the balance between exposition and plot is tough.  One of the commentators on a post I wrote on this subject for a FaceBook group said, “The biggest problem is that old information is very easy to write, so it tends to landslide into the story at every moment.”  I have definitely found that to be true.

Other commentators have suggested that I don’t bother, that anyone who reads this book should have read the first two, but I really don’t want to do that.  Offhand I can’t think of any series of books that isn’t written for the possibility that each book will serve as a reader’s introduction to the world.

I’ve been going back and skimming the first chapter or two of Jim Butcher’s Dresden Files series, because I think he’s good at it, and I’m trying to get a feel for his pacing.

Any thoughts from series writers on this?

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About MishaBurnett

I am the author of "Catskinner's Book", a science fiction novel available on Amazon Kindle. http://www.amazon.com/dp/B008MPNBNS
This entry was posted in Artists That I Admire, On Promotion, On Publishing, On Writing, Worms Of Heaven and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to Third Time Is Enemy Action

  1. Papi Z says:

    Reblogged this on The Literary Syndicate and commented:
    Misha has a question for all of you Series Writers. Let him know if you have an answer!

  2. That does sound tough. I have read series that go both ways, and as a reader, I think I’m inclined toward a “read from the beginning” attitude. Once you get 4, 5, 6+ books into a series, it gets very old having information rehashed over and over.

  3. kingmidget says:

    I don’t write series, but I’ve read a few. One thought. Rather than providing the background information via the story, you could provide a summary at the beginning of the book of what has happened before. Maybe just a couple of pages to re-introduce the characters and the storyline. I’ve seen this done on a few series, but certainly not all.

  4. sknicholls says:

    I have an old brain, so I tend to prefer a little backstory, just not too much. I can see where deciding on the “not too much” part could be a challenge.

  5. paws4thought says:

    I’m struggling with this too – I know most of the YA series I’ve read (and I write YA) do go over the basics, but I generally don’t like that so much when I’m reading – but others (my husband, for example) say that they like the recaps as often by the time the next book comes out they’ve forgotten stuff from previous books.

  6. Sue says:

    Inserting back story is always a challenge. I’ve been told not to “dump” in all in one place but to let it come out throughout the story either in dialogue or internal thoughts. Well that’s what I’ve been told, not necessarily what I do ….

  7. Aussa Lorens says:

    I don’t have any valuable series-related input but I have to give a shoutout to the practice of staring off into space and listening to music while “writing.” Glad to know I’m not the only one.

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