As a science-fiction novelist, and a proudly self-published one, I’m fortunate in having plenty of ideas for new projects. Plots present in observation of life, often I will remember a dream and that will set me going. If it doesn’t work out as a book, it could always make a short story. I jot down a few notes and I can come back to it anytime.
However I have noticed a trend, as my work becomes more widely read, and that is being given plot ideas to extend my already published titles with sequels and prequels and spin-offs. These come from me reading the manuscript and spotting details, from my editor and from readers and reviewers.
My first book, Freefall, had a few things in it that I considered in my naiveté to be no more than attention grabbing, enigmatic statements. Of course, now I know better, all that happened was that they worked in a way that I hadn’t considered, people actually wanted to know more about them. And so the prequel Myra was born, I have made a full novel out of a throwaway remark, a paragraph on P12.
“No matter how many times I hear the voice – it’s Myra by the way, it reminds me of the happy times. When she had put her voice print on the computer she said it was so she could order me around. It must be fifteen years ago, but I sometimes look over my shoulder expecting to see her in the hatchway. You can still see the faint dent in the panel if you look closely, I try not to. The paint was worn there; I rubbed it every time I passed.”
See what I mean? I’ve just spent 75,000 words explaining that dent!
Myra is available now; the artist who did that amazing cover came up with a suggestion while we were working on the concept that made such perfect sense that I just had to include it in the finished story. And it led me logically into what will be the third part of the Dave Travise Trilogy as I’m now (rather grandly) calling it. But that’s another job.
And another comment that I found in Freefall has given me an idea for a spin-off, with characters that are alluded to in passing getting their story told. Survive, the Tale of Ballantyne Alysom, is in development.
And it hasn’t stopped there; my editor read the first draft of The Rocks of Aserol and said, “Presumably there’s a sequel? If not, why not?” Well now there is, or at least there will be. At the last count, I have just over 50,000 words of what I’m calling “A new life in Ventis.” This will tell the story of the aftermath of events in the first book. Expect a lot of surprises when it’s published, hopefully that will be later this year.
A reviewer suggested a spin-off from Ribbonworld; (I had already worked out a sequel for myself) and then another person who had bought the book suggested yet another plot line that could be explored. They both go together by some weird chance, So that will be three books in that series if I can get around to writing them.
My next release, Andorra Pet and the Oort Cloud café, will be out in June 2017 and comes from a short story I wrote. I wondered what could happen to the characters in the situation they found themselves, and the novel was the result. And that’s led to a sequel, which has given me other ideas. Andorra is turning into cross between Miss Marple and Agatha Raisin in space. You can find Chapter 1 HERE
It’s very nice to think that I’ve got people’s attention. I can’t believe it sometimes, that a reader is that engrossed in the contents of my imagination that they want to know more. That I’ve managed to interest them enough that they can imagine how my worlds could develop. And that they want to know more about my characters pasts (or futures) from what I have written. At first, I wondered if it meant that I hadn’t done enough; then I realised that it really meant that I hadn’t done too much.
Incidentally, the current list of my Works in Progress stands at eight, that’s probably five or six years of work. And only two of them have been my own ideas. The good part about having so many projects is that, when I get fed up with writing one book, or the flow stops, I can swap over to another. I find that it keeps me from getting bored.
So if you don’t want me to get bored, keep reading the books and keep the ideas coming in. With your input, who knows where we might end up?
“Ideas are like rabbits, you get a couple and learn how to handle them and pretty soon you have a dozen. – John Steinbeck.
Inspiration is a funny thing, it can strike when we are least expecting it and it can lead us in directions that we could never imagine.
Way back when I was still employed, I was sent by my boss on a course in Portsmouth for a week. Before I went; people who had already been on the course warned me that the hotel was not exactly five-star accommodation.
And when I opened the door to my room, I could see what they meant, it was the sort of place, I thought to myself, where you would not be surprised to find a body in the bathroom.
At the time I had one book published and to be honest was a little unsure where my writing journey might take me.
The body in the bathroom idea stayed with me and I guess my subconscious must have worked in it because I found myself wondering what I would do if I had opened the door and actually found one, what would happen? Why was it there? and what it could mean in terms of my future actions?
From there it was easy(?) to develop the idea for a book, to use it as a starting point for an adventure and Ribbonworld was born. Ribbonworld gave me the idea for a yet to be published sequel, using the same characters and the unfinished business that always seems to exist in any book. The undeveloped plot strands, the back story and the characters that pass through the plot all have stories to tell, sometimes hinted at, sometimes worthy of a more detailed examination.
I wrote the sequel and what do you know? by ending it where I did, although it’s a perfectly sensible place to end that particular tale, it sets up the third book in what is rapidly becoming a series.
And the same pattern continues, people asked if there will be a sequel, you think about it and ideas flow. Or perhaps you do a bit of research, invent a back story and realise it has potential. Before you know it, a whole new world opens up.
And that’s where the quotation at the start comes in, you have one idea and before you know it, there are a hutch full, it’s almost as if once you start exercising a creative muscle, it develops and grows stronger on its own.
Find out about the body in the bathroom at myBook.to/Ribbonworld
When you’re an indie author you’ll be given lots of opportunities to review other people’s work in exchange for them doing you the same service. While I do not condone lying to the people you’re helping out, and believe you should maintain a good level of integrity we do absolutely believe that there is a certain way to review a product.
So when going into you writing career, make sure to bring plenty of positivity and a touch of grace with you, because it’s better to be a friendly advocate for somebody’s work as opposed to being superfluously unkind. It’ll make a better name for you in the long run.
My other point today is that sometimes you will have to shamelessly promote yourself sometimes and, again, it’s important that you do it in the right way. Some things you shouldn’t do: beg, reason, humblebrag, exclaim repeatedly all over social media how great your book is, lie, or annoy the hell out of people with repeated posts. No. You should find Facebook pages/blogs/twitter profiles to review your work and post it, so you can share it with an honest opinion from a consumer onto your social media accounts as an author. Believe me, the only thing worse than a badly written book is a badly written book being promoted by a narcissistic social media aficionado. Less is usually more in this instance.
I hope these tips help some of you in the coming months of your careers and look forward to having you back to the site next week. But until then, take care and many thanks!