Monday, September 20, 2021

I Still Exist!

Sorry I've been gone so long. I don't know if I've ever mentioned it on here before, but I've never been good with change or disruptions to my routine. And starting college has definitely been a major change in my routine. Especially since this night owl scheduled herself 8 am classes every day. 35-40 minutes away on a good traffic day, leaving early enough to beat the rush hour traffic. Knowing that she'll get migraines and/or stomach aches if she doesn't get enough sleep which means going to bed several hours earlier than she likes.

Wasn't I brilliant?

So yeah, it's been a pretty major change and a little overwhelming, and a lot of other things going on including routine but expensive car repairs and finding out I have osteoarthritis in my right foot (yay, ballet!). But I think I've finally started to settle in and get a handle on what I'm doing (I say as I just finished a 4 test week that had me swamped). Hey, I've started sneaking in a few minutes of reading when I'm waiting for my classes to start, I'm on my fifth Ranger's Apprentice audiobook of the semester (commutes are good for something), I'm loving my statistics class (who knew? actually, I was really looking forward to that one), and in general I like being in school. Which I guess is a good thing given that I'm getting a degree in education so school will be my life.

Writing? What's that?

Okay, so I haven't exactly been writing other than adding bits and pieces to random fanfics, BUT that isn't to say I've been ignoring Acktorek. See, going to Realm Makers always seems to tell me I'm missing major pieces in my current WIP. And while the sessions didn't point out all of the missing pieces, they started a snowball effect of noticing all the pieces I don't have. One of the big ones was a series goal.

See, this episodic series format is TOTALLY different from anything I've ever written before. The only series I've written was Time Captives and that actually wasn't intended to be a series. It was one book that kept ballooning until I had to split it into first two then three (two really didn't work structure-wise). Also, Acktorek wasn't originally intended to be a series at all. It started out as a short story from a writing prompt, became a non-serious novel project just to learn to have fun writing again no-stress, then became a serious novel, then I decided to leave it open for a sequel in case I had ideas, then I had a tiny spark of a concept idea and jumped into a sequel knowing next to nothing about what I was doing with it. Sounds like a terrific process, right? Nope.

I want it to be a series because I love the concept, I love Emma and Mitchell, and I have tiny sparks of ideas that I want to develop into full novels. Like space pirates. But even aside from my book specific villains not having a well-defined plan (obvious issue), I realized I really needed something more coherent to tie everything together.

I started looking at series that I enjoy for guidance. Primarily Timeless (somewhat similar concept except time travel, not world travel), and Jedi Apprentice (one of the major inspirations behind Acktorek the company and the concept of the series/structure). I also looked a bit at Jedi Quest, Young Jedi KnightsMonk, and Ranger's Apprentice, though not as much. Some things I noticed were the existence of overarching storylines, recurring villains and other characters, multi-episode/book story arcs and a finale that brings it all together (sometimes that finale is for the series overall, sometimes it's just for the story arc...or sometimes both). 

For instance, in Monk, it may not be explicitly mentioned in every episode, but a series long storyline is Trudy's murder. There are pieces along the way that drive it forward, but it's not actually solved until the series finale. 

In Timeless, they may be in a different time period with different supporting characters in each episode, but you've got a recurring villain (first Flynn, then Rittenhouse and I'm not going to explain that any better because MAJOR spoilers). You have continuing storylines, like Lucy trying to get her sister back after she was erased by their first trip. You also have Wyatt trying to Back to the Future his dead wife back to life. (And things get way complicated and are not at all what you thought they were, but anyway.) And something the writers said about how they chose where to send them stood out to me. They looked at where they needed the characters' emotional arcs to go in that episode and then picked a time period/historical event that could do that for them. 

Jedi Apprentice has multiple story arcs: Xanatos (which has a couple of mini arcs within it, like Melida/Daan), Jenna Zan Arbor, Tahl's kidnapping...and a couple of other books that are more like standalone adventures (my favorite was The Fight for Truth because of baby Siri, but I also liked how the last book brought things full circle by placing Obi-Wan in a situation reminiscent of Melida/Daan and showing how much he's grown and matured since the early part of the series). Then Jedi Quest picks up some of those threads from the previous series with Xanatos's son Granta Omega being the recurring villain, working alongside Jenna Zan Arbor (and Zan Arbor then was a fairly major factor in Last of the Jedi). Not every Jedi Quest book contributes explicitly to the Granta Omega story, but those that don't are still crucial in developing Anakin's emotional journey as well as his relationship with his friends Tru Veld and Darra Thel-Tanis and his rival Ferus Olin, which contributes immensely to the final book titled—wait for it—The Final Showdown. (Super obvious title aside, that book destroyed me as a kid, and again rereading it as an adult, and every time I reread the ending when I pick it up for a moment at the library. I'm never going to get over it. Or the end of Secrets of the Jedi.)

All of this is to say, I've been thinking about how episodic series actually work, and what makes them coherent stories even when each installment takes place in a different time or on a different planet (or in a different world). And I've been brainstorming how to accomplish this in Acktorek based on unexplained things in book one, background worldbuilding I did for the post-RM rewrite of book one, and other things that pop into my head. I'm not going to say what I've come up with because (1) it's not solidified yet, and (2) *River Song voice* spoilers, but I'm coming up with stuff. Hopefully it will revolutionize the series and make things really work (and be amazing, obviously). And you're not going to know where it's all heading for awhile because I'm not going to spill, but it will be heading somewhere. (And then maybe I'll rework a plot I came up with for a different project as a next generation story. I'm actually pretty excited about the idea of doing that.) Don't know how long it'll take—I'm not the fastest writer even when I'm not in school—but things are happening, if slowly and not in ways that are easy to see and measure.

And now I'm going to go read because every once in a while I manage to find a little time to do something fun.

Ta ta for now!