Empire of Dust came out in November 2014 and yesterday I delivered the final version of Crossways.
Second books are difficult, mind bogglingly, scarily difficult. For starters, you never quite know how much backstory to filter in from the first book. You really want anyone picking up the second book to go and get the first one, too, but you don’t want them to be so lost that they fling the book against the wall. So you walk a writerly tightrope between not enough and too much and you know that for some readers you’ll not have managed to get it right. For every review that says too much backstory, there will be another yelling ‘I was lost from the first paragraph.’ The best you can hope for is an equal number on both sides of the divide.
You know those little stickers they have for car wing mirrors that say something like ‘Objects in the mirror are clo0ser than they appear’? I’m thinking of getting a set for all the mirrors in our house, and for the computer screens: Book publication date is closer than you think!
You never have as much time as you think you have. (That applies to life in general, of course.) If your publication date is October your editor will likely want your final finished copy by the end of May. If your publication date is moved up to August (and someone forgot to copy you in on the decision) then your delivery date is–Eeep!–the end of March. That’s after the book has been back and forth a couple of times for editing. (Usually one major edit and one minor one.) So start early and write, write, write. You will have thumb-twiddling gaps after you have sent in a draft and you are left for a few weeks waiting for editorial comments. The editorial comments could lead to rethinking characters, adding in new viewpoints or having to write several thousand more words. (Both my Psi-tech books expanded dramatically at the first edit stage, though the second edits were relatively light!)
At the same time as you are writing the second book you have to be thinking ahead to third one even though you don’t have a contract for it yet. The thing is, you want to write a third book. You know you have enough storyline for a third book, but equally you know you can wrap up the arc in two books if you have to. It’s with relief that (even without paperwork) you discover that your editor seems to assume there will be another book to follow.
And what happens after the third book? You don’t want to do a Babylon 5 on it and assume you have to wrap the long term arc up at the end of season Four and then discover the studio has given you the green light on Season Five and you’re like: Oh, where do we go from here? My third book will wrap up one story arc, but every ending can lead to a new beginning if you let it.
And while all this planning is going on in my the Psi-tech universe, I have a completely different book to get ready for publication in February 2016. (One that I do have a contract for.) The good news is that it’s written, or at least the first draft is. I haven’t yet had editorial comments. It’s likely that it won’t be as hefty as either Empire of Dust (171,000 words) or Crossways (173,000 words) but it’s a while since I looked at it and so I have to get my head back into a historical fantasy set in 1800. I’m not being coy about the title, by the way. There are two potential titles and I’m not sure which one DAW is going to go for yet. It’s a fun story, though, about a cross-dressing privateer captain, the jealous ghost of her dead husband and a wolf shapechanger. (Never call him a werewolf, he gets very upset!) It has magic, the sea, pirates, an implacable enemy, and a magical race ensnared by something from the past that needs to be unravelled. It’s a million miles and seven centuries away from my Psi-tech universe, but while I’m working on the edit I’ll be thinking about the third Psi-tech book, which I hope will be called Nimbus. There’s something stirring in foldspace…