The book after Kings of the North went in to my editor at the start of this year, with only a tentative title--some books title themselves easily, and others don't. Yesterday, my brilliant editor came up with a much better title, so now the third volume in this group will be Crisis of Vision. All things being equal (though they rarely are) it should be released in March of 2012, though it's not been given a release date yet. Stuff Can Happen.
Meanwhile, the fourth volume is already chugging along--I started on it "formally" this week, which means setting up the daily and weekly wordage goals again. So far this week I've slightly exceeded those goals. Writing to a word count goal isn't the only strategy for meeting deadlines, and does not work well for all writers, so it's not a rule...it's a strategy that works for me, and some others.
Those not familiar with the Paksenarrion books may wonder what these books are about. Briefly, The Deed of Paksenarrion (originally published in 3 mass-market volumes, now in an omnibus form) is the story of how a farm girl with dreams of glory became, in the end, a paladin who restored a missing heir to his throne. That's briefly. It's more complicated than that. The new group, called Paladin's Legacy, is the story of what happens after a paladin intervenes--how lives change. The former "bastard duke" is now a king in another country, two former cohort captains under that duke are now, respectively, a count and a duke...and so on. Transitions are tough. The repercussions of moving Kieri Phelan from the North Marches of Tsaia to the throne of Lyonya extend beyond the borders of those two kingdoms. The long story arc that runs through all the volumes makes this a group (in my definition) and not a series (which in my definition is comprised of near-standalone books that focus on the same characters. Mysteries with the same detective are a series--you can start anywhere because the mystery arc is complete in one--though a few become more about the detective than the mystery.)
For more about this story-universe, and descriptions of each volume so far (but not Crisis of Vision yet--there's more website updating to do...) visit the Paksworld website.
Writing very long (multi-volume) stories sounds like pure drudgery for some, ridiculous self-indulgence for others and just the way things are for another group. I'm in the last group. But I also think that every writer has both a natural speed of writing and a natural length of story. Some people write brilliant short stories but never write a brilliant novel--and vice versa. I find it easy (comparatively) to generate big, long, complicated stories. A short story takes me, on average, four or five times as long as the same number of words in a novel. A six-thousand-word chapter in a novel rides on the energy in the whole story...a short story has to generate that energy and then contain it in a much smaller compass. Window box v. forest. Some people are very, very good with houseplants and others are very, very good with a woodlot or open field. Not a bigger or smaller talent...just a different one.
The feel of a new book in a group, once I commits to it, reminds me of an eager horse at the starting line (I got to ride a racing Quarter Horse mare a few times as a kid. Lining her up at one end of a dirt road and turning her loose was incredible fun.) I can feel the story bouncing inside, eager to take off, and then--when I let it go--it takes off. By the way it takes off, I can now tell about how much trouble it's going to be down the road. (All my books give me trouble in mid-book; I used to panic about that, but now I know it's just a necessary part of writing--for me, anyway.) Crisis in Vision lived up to its eventual name--it had a difficult beginning and--partly due to family issues that required gaps in the writing--continued to give trouble off and on. It felt like a crisis time after time. Both Oath of Fealty and Kings of the North had rolled on with very little trouble, considering their length. It's too early to say for sure, but the new book feels like it wants to go straight on to the end. I'm sure it will throw up barricades at some point before it gets going again, but I'm hoping for less difficulty than with the previous. (Then again, on the family side things are not as chaotic--a serious illness--not mine--has been diagnosed and is being treated, and workloads have been shifted to accommodate that. Another reason to start serious work on the newest one before even hearing back from agent or editor on the one just turned in.)
It does impinge on my internet time, though, and it's time to turn off the browser and mail client and get to work.