Tuesday, 1 December 2015

Glorious Victory, and Accidentally Starting Series Part Way Through

Thanks to the triumphal marches in capital cities across the world, the votes of commendation from both houses of Parliament, the American Senate, the European Council and the General Synod, and the letters of praise from the Dalai Lama, His Holiness the Pope, and Her Majesty the Queen, and the considerable publicity that these have all generated, you will no doubt be aware that I successfully completed this year’s National Novel Writing Month, and with a day to spare.  For someone of my naturally modesty, it’s all a little embarrassing.

This NaNo has actually not been terribly arduous.  Partially this is thanks to my tablet, which has allowed me to get a considerable amount of writing done on the bus to and from work every day (albeit riddled with typos due to the small ‘keyboard’ and the movement of the bus).  Partially, however, this year the story has seemed to flow extremely easily, and the story has gone a lot more slowly in terms of pacing than previous efforts.  I was twenty thousand words in before the plot proper really got going, and despite having hit the required fifty thousand words, there’s still an awful lot left to write.

However, something rather strange has happened.
Have you ever had the experience of seeing a book in a shop, reading the blurb, deciding that it looked rather good, started reading and, although thoroughly enjoying it, finding that it constantly refers to people and events as though you should already be familiar with them?  You then do some double checking and find that you’ve started reading the second or third book in a series without realising, and have to then go back and start the series again, or else read them in the wrong order.  It’s happened to me at least twice.

This is what's happened to me in the writing of this novel.  I found myself referring to people and events about which I had not the slightest idea, but that had occurred previously in the life of my main character, and even the title I’ve chosen suggests an earlier book.  I vaguely had it in mind that I’d like to write a series, complete with sequential and thematic (and somewhat pulp-ish) titles.  The current work is ‘Squadron’s Zenith’, to be followed by ‘Fleet’s Zenith’, ‘England’s Zenith’ and ‘Empire’s Zenith’ (seeds of the very vague plots for which are already germinating in the moist, manure-rich compost of my mind).  However, for the sequence to make any sense, surely it needs to start with ‘Ship’s Zenith’, and deal with my main character, Edmund Zenith as a junior officer, before being promoted to the captaincy that he has just achieved at the start of ‘Squadron’s Zenith’.

How on earth did I start writing a series at book two?  On the other hand, CS Forrester wrote the Hornblower books all out of sequence, starting with Hornblower as a captain, and then jumping back and forth along his lifetime at whim, as did George Macdonald-Fraser with the Flashman books (and didn’t fill in all the gaps before he died, to my considerable irritation), so I suppose that I’m actually in good company, not that I am actually claiming to be on any sort of par with these two eminent authors.

I’ve enjoyed writing this one so far, and hopefully I won’t lose too much momentum by taking a few days’ break after the frenzy of November, but after it’s finished, I think I’ll definitely have to go back and cover the exploits of Lieutenant Zenith on board the HMA Pendragon, which is apparently the name of the ship he served on, not that anyone informed me of this beforehand.

Having figured out where Edmund Zenith comes from, it may then help things make a little more sense as I continue the series, or at least I sincerely hope so.  I really don’t like reading a series out of order, and to find myself writing one isn’t much better.

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