The Retrieval Artist

Retrieval Artist Update #3

Things are really starting to progress on the Retrieval Artist front—for me, anyway. You folks will start seeing covers and hear more starting in August. Then the books will hit, one per month, starting in January.

Yes, January. Not because of me missing my deadlines (I haven’t!) but because I did something bizarre. I’ll tell you what that is at the end of this post.

For those of you who don’t know what I’m talking about, here it all is in a nutshell:

I wrote Anniversary Day, expecting to finish the entire story in one volume. Then I figured Blowback would finish it, but of course, it didn’t. I started a story to explain something to myself called A Murder of Clones, which takes place off-Moon. The story turned into a novella, the novella turned into a novel, and I realized I would have to publish that book after Blowback For reasons I went into in this post, I felt that readers would be disappointed with A Murder of Clones if they had to wait a year to finish the entire saga. My plan? To finish the entire saga before releasing the last few books.

On March 29, I wrote what I thought would be the third Retrieval Artist update, but website redesign and other pressures kept me from posting it. So I’ll incorporate it here. What I wrote is this:

This week was the week I had been afraid of all along.

What happened this week? Well, tons of stuff in your lives, I’m sure. In mine, I stopped and diagrammed some stuff in the Earth Alliance that I hadn’t figured out yet. Then I wrote seven chapters about characters no one knew existed except me.

I figured I was 40,000 words from the end of book 12 and I hoped to finish it by the middle of April.

Best laid plans…

So…this week…40,000 words from the end of Book 12:

When I hit this point in any story—just before the climax, when I’m sure about not only whodunit, but why—I reassess what I’ve already written and made sure I’d followed Chekov’s Rule.

Most non-writers don’t know what I mean by that, but it’s Anton Chekov’s most famous rule of writing, quoted in various ways and in various places. Here’s one from S. Shchukin’s 1911 book Memoirs. Shchukin quotes Chekov as saying,

“If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on a wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

I first learned the rule from one of the best English professors I had, the poet Bink Noll. He was using the quote—as most literary writing instructors do—to remind their students to trim extraneous material.

But I’ve always used Chekov’s Rule in the reverse. Because I write out of order, I always run into the danger of leaving out important information. So if a gun goes off in what becomes Chapter 33, then I had best go and add that gun to Chapter 1 immediately. 

So…this week, I figured out not only whodunit and why in detail (I knew generally before), but how and more importantly, what’s next. I’d been as in the dark as my heroic characters about the bad things that would happen in the climax.

Now I know what those bad things are and I know how they will play out. I know who solves them, and I know how everything comes together.

As I said, I knew this was coming. In fact, in the last post, I wrote: “So…The Peyti Crisis. [Book 11] Done for now. I say for now, because I’m not sure if I’ll need to go back and add or delete something because of what I will write in the upcoming books. And, true to form, my predictions were a bit off.”

Now I have to follow Chekov’s Rule as English teachers teach it—get rid of the stuff that no longer applies—and as I use it—plant the bad stuff so that you’ll all be surprised when it pays off.

The muddled middle. Not a surprise that it’s giving me grief. But I actually feel like I’m moving forward, which is a great thing.

After I wrote that post, everything clicked into place. I liken the process of writing this saga to putting a giant table-sized jigsaw puzzle together. For the first few months, I found the fairly obvious pieces and put them together, but I had a lot of pieces that didn’t fit with anything.

In March, I figured out what was missing, and assembled my corners, as well as the outline of the puzzle. Entire sections were already together, but some had to be moved.

I started writing quickly after that. Most of what I needed to write were early books in the saga, things readers need to know, but couldn’t know during the first two novels (Anniversary Day and Blowback.)

Often my writing process mimics the reading process, so I couldn’t effectively write some of the novels in this saga if I had known the details about the past. I had to be as ignorant of those actions as the characters I was writing about.

Now, I’m filling in gaps.

In April, I went over A Murder of Clones, and fixed the ending. Then I started what I was calling RA 11. I finished it yesterday. The book is now titled Search & Recovery. Today I go over the book I initially thought would come next—The Peyti Crisis. I need to change the motivation for one of my major characters (I finally understand it), and see how the book comes together, but that book is 90% done.

After Dean reads Search & Recovery, it goes to my content editor. The Peyti Crisis will probably follow by mid-June. Then I need to write all of the next book (RA 13). I have two already finished novels after that. (I am holding them until I’m certain how they need to be structured) and then I write the final book or books in the series, depending on how long it takes me to wrap up loose ends.

WMG Publishing is on board with all of this, and has a great plan for releasing the books. Because there are so many, we’ve decided to release one per month (not one every two months) starting in January.

So you’ll get A Murder of Clones in January, Search & Recovery in February, The Peyti Crisis (which features Flint) in March, and so on. WMG will run some specials next fall for long-time fans of the series that will make buying so many books at one time less of a financial burden. And there are other promotions coming as well, all starting in the fall. Check WMG Publishing’s website starting in late August. Those of  you who are listening to the books on Audible will finally be able to listen to the novellas The Possession of Paavo Deshin and The Recovery Man’s Bargain in late 2014. You really need to listen to Paavo’s story, because Luc Deshin plays an important role in the saga, starting with Search & Recovery. I’ll have more news on dates for the audiobooks when I know what those dates are.

I took a break as I wrote this, and checked my e-mail. In it was the copy edit for A Murder of Clones. As you can tell, all is moving apace.

Thanks so much for being patient with me. I’m very excited about the Anniversary Day saga.

I hope you all are too.