Game plan

Pay attention because I’m going to talk about writing, which I don’t often do. At least, not my current writing. Not my actual work in progress stuff.

It weighs on me more with every passing year that there hasn’t been a genuine original Ben Jeapes novel published since 2004. And guess what – following yesterday’s meeting with my publisher this doesn’t look immediately set to change. But there is a renewed sense of purpose in the air, which makes a pleasant change.

I haven’t exactly been twiddling my thumbs in the meantime: 3 Vampire Plagues, 2 Midnight Library collections and 3 $INSECT_EATING_TV_GUY ghostwriting gigs bear testimony to this. Time’s Chariot was also reissued in 2008, which was nice.

Part of the problem is precisely all that hackwork, which pays bills nicely but gets in the way. I’m happy to be in a position now where I can turn down such offers without regret, unless they pay really well (like $INSECT_EATING_TV_GUY did).

Part of the problem was that when I put the last full stop at the end of New World Order that was the end of the stories that had been burning inside me for years. Thereafter I had to start writing new stuff from scratch rather than just giving voice to pre-existing collections of thoughts. Ideas I can come up with until the cows come home, but plots … plots! Don’t talk to me about plots! Sticking needles in my eyes would be preferable to cudgelling my brains to work out what the £$%& happens next.

So with New World Order out of the way I started on a work which we will call for convenience Untitled Space Opera, or USO. The set-up for USO had been bubbling away for a while but it soon appeared that a satisfactory plot wasn’t going to develop, and anyway I had other distractions like getting married and what with one thing and another USO did get finished, after a fashion, but was never really fit for release into the wild. And anyway, in the meantime I had rather gone off space opera so my heart wasn’t in it. My heart was in a complete change of direction: taking an old short story of mine, “The Grey People“, and stretching it and expanding it backwards and forwards and generally developing in into a novel – a present day urban fantasy set in Salisbury with a present day slightly geeky teenage hero. Called Ted, so call this book Ted1. Even then the plot fairy wasn’t entirely beneficent and it did a lot of bouncing back and forth between me and the publisher, who correctly identified a lot of what wasn’t working and which lead to a lot of rewriting.

(I mean, a lot. Imagine if Rowling’s publishers had said “Well, we like Harry Potter & the Philosopher’s Stone but the Philosopher’s Stone bit doesn’t really work – can you fix it?” That’s the kind of lot I mean. Eventually I had to write up a list of scenes, essentially delete anything with $NON_WORKING_ELEMENT and fill in the gaps with added Plot to make it work better. Which it did.)

It was meant to be standalone but a sequel did suggest itself within the last pages, so while Ted1 moldered with the publisher and in between the hackwork I started on Ted2, which is now almost finished. And guess what, it was meant to be standalone but a sequel is suggesting itself so there could well be a Ted3 and I’ll have committed trilogy for the first time. But trilogies are good. Trilogies are sellable. I also want to do another alternate history fantasy which we will call N, possibly because that actually is what I might call it anyway.

Cut a long story short, fast forward to yesterday …

He likes Ted1. A lot. He also thinks it’s such a departure from my current track record with Random House that he could buy it but RH wouldn’t really be able to do it justice. In a couple of years he might (for currently undisclosable, but good, reasons) be in a position to do better, but not now.

BUT over the last few years USO has also been bubbling at the back of my mind, and it’s had a couple of very useful critiques from friends. I now think it’s fixable, and what’s more we both agree it’s more in line with my other titles.

So, I have a game plan! This is exciting and makes me feel all grown-up.

  • Finish Ted2
  • Rework USO
  • Sit on Ted1 pro tem
  • Write N and/or Ted3
  • USO gets published
  • Teds 1, 2 and possibly 3 are published in short order
  • N gets published

This all assumes 1 publisher – it would get more complicated if another publisher were to show an interest in a Ted trilogy, which can’t be ruled out if my agent cogitates in that direction. You could probably draw a flowchart but for the time being I’ll keep it in my head.

So, there we are and here I am. Onwards!