I was out in the car today with my wife, babbling about The Veil.
I told her I’m having serious difficulty writing the final four chapters. Simply put, they need to be planned in an in depth fashion. I’ve been lucky so far, my “Chess” approach has worked well and brought me into novel length territory.
But this is the end.
If I don’t get some kind of ending written that has the foundation of being kick-ass, I’m sunk.
So now I feel challenged.
In the midst of telling her this, I started to relay some of the numerous ideas and influences that exist in The Veil. When I was done, she looked at me and said, “Now, I’d have to read it, but something has me a little worried… It sounds kinda complicated.”
And she’s right.
The Veil is a mish mash of various story ideas I’ve had over the past couple years. It incorporates science, religion, myth, conspiracy and so much more, it threatens to spiral out of control. But it’s meant to be several books.
Yes, I know all the weird and complicated maneuvers that are going on behind the scenes, but I don’t intend to show all my cards to the reader in book one. Nope, I want them in for the long haul.
This presents a conundrum. How much do I reveal in Book One?
I need to present some smattering of all the themes and ideas, or I’ll get to book two or three and something will just hit the reader out of nowhere. To me, it’ll be obvious, but the reader is going to shake their fist and scream “Bullsh!t.”
This is where editing is going to be crucial.
I believe I’m not the only writer to do this. To be honest, I’m positive there’s a boatload of writers in the exact same situation.
I’m sure you’ve all read the writing advice that as an author, you should know all the back story; but you shouldn’t feel the need to info dump all of it.
Honestly, some things are useful to build a character’s identity in our mind, but are unnecessary to state explicitly for the reader.
But what if the whole series hinges on that information?
Do you remember the fifth book of Harry Potter, The Order of the Phoenix? It finally revealed why Voldemort went after Harry and his parents. Thing was, the prophecy was mundane. I mean, Duh, any astute reader had that prophecy already figured out. It felt like we’d been baited with something earth shattering, only to have a deflated feeling when it turned out to be the same old “the boy & monster will meet, and one will defeat the other.”
While the actual prophecy was a bit of a let down, it served to explain why it had been so important to Voldemort to find and eliminate the Potters. It answered a question that had been nagging for a number of books.
On the flip side, the reveal of the master wand in book seven seemed forced. There was an article I read on the web that asked a very good question; Why the hell didn’t Voldemort just take everyone out at the end of book six? Well, because it would have been a suck ending. The introduction of the master wand and its ilk tried to a) answer why Voldemort remained in the shadows and b) provide a way for Harry, who hadn’t been the most powerful wizard in the world, to defeat Voldemort. While it was thrilling, it felt forced.
Don’t get me wrong, Harry Potter is brilliant. If I could write a series half as good, I’d consider myself blessed. My point is, if you have an invisibility cloak early on in the series that is part of this mystical triad of items that are integral to the end of the series, couldn’t you have mentioned something about it earlier? Reading the books, I have no doubt JK Rowling knew all about the wand and company early on. She just didn’t let us in on it until the last book.
Given the complexity of plots and themes in The Veil, I need to avoid this. First off, I need to do so because people aren’t going to be as forgiving of me as they are JK Rowling. Secondly, because people really will call me on using big twists out of nowhere.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with big, complex ideas. In fact, I thrive on things like that, which is why my book is filled with them. The key is finding a way to make them feel organic. Book one needs to lay the ground rules. If a stepping stone doesn’t exist in book one, that’s a path I won’t be able to follow.
Editing this thing is going to be a beast. I know that, and I’m not even there yet.
What do you think? Can you get away with omitting some ideas from book one as long as they get put into book two? Or should the whole path be present in book one, even if left obscure?
Or am I making a huge mistake from the start, having it clear in my head that this story is going to require several books to tell?
Of course, it’s too late to stop now 🙂