Writing and Other Afflictions

"If it was easy, everyone would do it." –Jimmy Dugan, "A League of Their Own"

Category Archives: episodic

Episodic Stories

The workshop met last night and reviewed the last chapter of the first part of the novel. Reactions were generally very positive, with a lot of good points brought up that I will need to work on in editing. My big question for the group was: could the story stand on its own as the first novel in a series of three? The answer was a fairly emphatic “no.” They did note that the character seems to have completed a story arc of her own, but the intrigue outside her is just heating up to the point that it would be unfair to drop the reader out of it. I can see the point, though I’ve known “first in a series” novels that did the same. Not as drastically, I suppose. So it looks like I’ll keep up with Aya for a bit longer before considering her story complete.

I am taking a break, however, in order to try to write something for New Fables #2. And all of you should try too! Poems, essays, stories, anything that uses anthropomorphic animals to get its message across is welcome. Check out the mission statement and the first issue, if you can, and send something by December 15th to editor@sofawolf.com, or to me directly at tsusman@sofawolf.com.

Finished! No, wait…

I’ve been working for a while on the poorly-titled “Aya’s Journal,” a pseudo-web-journal penned by a 23rd-century anthropologist embarking on the study of the first sapient aliens man has encountered. You may, if you’re so inclined, read the first few entries, which I’d put online in the initial hope of building a readership so that the subsequent stories would have an audience. I stalled on the online part, but started giving the chapters to my writing group, who helped with enthusiastic feedback that motivated me to write more (thanks, guys!).

And now the first part of Aya’s story is written, at least in first draft form. I think it stands reasonably well on its own (but we shall see in a few weeks what the group thinks of it). It ties up the character arc I started–one of them–but doesn’t resolve all the plot threads, nor the overall question of the story. That’s kind of a departure for me. I’ve written short stories, I’ve written novels, but I hadn’t before written something that ends without wrapping up the plot. There are more threads to write, but this is a good stopping point, from a story point as well as a benchmark of 60,000 words, and it sets up this book as the first of a trilogy.

Robert Silverberg once said, while expressing disdain for the “fantasy trilogy,” “Yes, I too have committed a trilogy.” In his case, it was more like two sequential novels with a bunch of mostly unrelated short stories in between. But still, it’s billed as the “Majipoor Trilogy,” and he seemed resigned to that designation. Aya’s Journal originally started as a two-book concept, where the first was going to be mostly setup for the second–hence the idea to put the first online. But the first got more complicated, and eventually burgeoned into two books all by itself.

One of the problems with that was that it became increasingly hard to keep track of what the overall theme of the book was. By the time I was halfway through this part, scrambling to get one “chapter” done every month, I was just pushing the story along without really thinking about theme. But it started to gel with this next to last part, and this last part (again, I hope) wraps things up nicely… while leaving me an opening to take Aya on a newish kind of story.

I imagine when I start the second book, I’ll have to figure out how to recap the first without it being too obvious, but right now I’m just kind of sitting back and enjoying the fact that it came to a satisfying conclusion. And not thinking about editing. No sirree.

I am curious whether anyone else has done anything episodic like this, and how you managed to keep the theme and arcs straight across episodes if so…