It’s been a while since my last update. In the last 9 months (eek!) a lot of things came up but I have made some slow progress despite the pandemic making a mess of everything.
I did finish up the edits to the full outline for my next book on December 15th, 2019 (ah, the before times…). It came out to 22,633 words and 37 chapters. I then sent it to my amazing editor.
Once that outline was out for review I started working on the outline for the sequel. That’s right! I’m trying to publish two books back to back!
On December 28th, I got her feedback and we had a chat after the holidays on January 8th to go over everything. I did better than my last book, with her approving of 6 out of 37 chapters. For comparison, when I first sent her a 10 page chunk of an early draft of Full Coverage she told me she could tell from those 10 pages I needed to start from scratch. Baby steps people!
Even with 6 good chapters, my outline still needed a major overhaul to improve things. The biggest change was to the tone of the book. I was trying to have things multiple ways with a dark/depressed main character along with some humor and a warped yet optimistic ending. It didn’t really flow together well. I noodled on how to change it for about a month and on February 23, 2020 I started brainstorming things and changed the tone I was going for. Instead of a clashing mix, I am now going for a satire without jokes approach, similar to how RoboCop, Dr. Strangelove and District 9 make fun of things but don’t have anyone directly telling jokes to do so.
Another big change was to tie things together across the book more. In the old outline the antagonists felt kind of detached from the rest of the book. Some of them just showed up once and that was it. In the new updated version they will show up earlier and combine roles that used to be multiple people. That way the same people interact multiple times and the stakes and conflict between them feels like it’s growing each time instead of resetting with a fresh face.
The last major change was to make the action scenes better. There weren’t a lot of good action scenes in my original outline since I was trying to build tension by almost having action happen and then pulling back. Instead of building tension it just felt dull so now there are more action set pieces with plot implications and character moments. One of them is similar to the sandstorm chase from Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, but with a cloud of nerve gas instead. It should be cool.
The sequel will also get some good action scenes. Right now I have a placeholder line for an action scene that should feel like the opening of Saving Private Ryan, but on a freeway, with robots and mech-suits. There will be many miniguns.
As of now I have a 4,521 word top level outline covering the 38 chapters of my next book. I just figured out that I need to add another character to tie a few events that are currently just floating by themselves together but the majority of it is there. My next steps are to add in the new character, then read over and edit the new chapter snippets three times, then write up another detailed outline to send to my editor. I think my next post will be on how I’ve been approaching the outlining process.
The Perils of Writing Near Future Satire
The next two books take place roughly 10-20 years from now in an alternate timeline. This allows me to add in some early stage mech-suits and mount machineguns on the Boston Dynamics dogs while keeping everything else pretty much the same as today so I can make fun of things. One of the jokes is that the main character is an FBI counter-terrorism agent who starts off bored with his job because nobody ever attacks his city. Instead of New York or LA I needed to go with a city that would be big enough to have an FBI office, but small enough that it would seem silly for anyone to stage terrorist attacks or a mercenary backed coup from it. So I chose Portland, back in 2013, when I first started writing down ideas for these books.
Now, what’s going on there doesn’t really have anything to do with what I’m writing about, there are no robot dogs with machineguns, yet. But there are thematic parallels to some of the ideas that I’m working with and it annoys me on a very deep artistic level to basically get scooped by reality. Full Coverage is set in the 2080s so I didn’t have this issue with that book. (I specifically never mentioned the year in the book to avoid dating the book like all those sci-fi books that talk about the far off apocalypse of 1999, but that is the decade my outline and notes use.) I guess I just need to write more often and more consistently to stay ahead of reality. Otherwise I risk my near future satire becoming historical satire.