Series, Characters and Sanity

DEADLY CURIOSITIESby Gail Z. Martin

Sometimes, it gets crowded inside my head.

I currently write the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga for Orbit Books, which is epic fantasy, and next summer, I’ll launch the first book in the Deadly Curiosities urban fantasy series from Solaris Books.  My original epic fantasy series was the Chronicles of the Necromancer.  And I write two series of ebook short stories, the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures and the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.  That means at any time, I’ve got several different worlds, time periods and sets of characters running around my imagination, vying for attention. It gets interesting.

When I was working on just one series, keeping everyone straight wasn’t a big challenge.  It’s still not so much an issue of mixing up people or places–that’s not really the problem.  The issue sometimes becomes giving everyone the attention they want–or demand.  If you’ve ever tried to juggle several different committee causes, you’ll understand.  Or just tried to keep several different groups of friends and family happy, when there’s only one of you.

See, characters are greedy. They want ALL of a writer’s time, because they’re only “real” when someone is actively thinking about them.  And they only get to do new things when one person in particular is thinking about them–me.  So there’s a constant whisper from one crew or the other, “Hey, write about us. We’re doing something interesting.”

Now sometimes, that’s exactly what I want to hear, because I’m on deadline.  Often, the crew whose deadline is coming up decides to go off and sulk and not tell me about anything they’re doing, and another crew, whose book isn’t due for months or who doesn’t have an active project, they’ll come up with an amazing idea.  It’s such a good idea, I want to dive in on it right away.  But I can’t, because of that deadline–for the other guys.

The best I can do is offer to take notes, and once the deadline gets met, I can come back and work on the other story.  The note taking part is essential, because no matter how awesome the idea is and how certain I am that I won’t ever forget it, if I don’t write it down, it’s gone when I go to look for it.

The best way I’ve found to keep all those characters happy is to spell out who gets what.  It’s like breaking up squabbling kids.  I’ll sit down and figure out a writing calendar of what I will be working on for the next several months, looking at deadlines first.  Once the deadlines are accounted for, the other projects go in order of which ideas take firmest root in my imagination.  That lets some projects percolate a little longer while I jump on those that already seem clear.  Eventually, everyone gets their time in the sun.

All those characters make my brain a crowded place, but it’s nice when they keep it down to a dull roar instead of bickering over who gets to go first.  On the bright side, there’s never a dull moment!

Reign of Ash, book two in the Ascendant Kingdoms Saga launches in April, 2014 from Orbit Books.  My new urban fantasy, Deadly Curiosities, comes out in July, 2014 from Solaris Books. I bring out two series of ebook short stories with a new story every month for just .99 on Kindle, Kobo and Nook—check out the Jonmarc Vahanian Adventures or the Deadly Curiosities Adventures.

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