I've been skimming through my hopper of unfinished (and in some cases, unstarted) work and came across a file labeled "The Incubus Philosopher" last edited in 2014. It reads:
On "Pickup Artists"
There are only ever two steps to seducing a woman. First you learn who she is, then you dismantle who she thinks she should be. Anything beyond that - the "negging," and the sidling and the ridiculous peacock behavior should be left for the sort who lap up little puddles of desire and are fooled into thinking they've drunk deeply.
I should know of what I speak. I've seduced thousands of women and been one myself for decades at a time. Most of society's power is bent towards hobbling the innate power of women in full control of their own sexuality. When I was a woman at the height of my power, kings and generals would have given me whatever I asked just to fuck me. Even if the rest of the world wants to burn you at the stake, there is phenomenal power there - one no man can achieve unless he convinces a lot of other men to point their swords in the same direction and stab everyone between you and your goals.
(I have a really epic story centered around a college for magic rattling around in my head that I hope I'll get to write some day.)
Editing chapter 20 of Too Much Love this week, I realized that it's not really a proper chapter. Stuff happens, but it doesn't end on a transition or a cliffhanger. It's transitional.
Since I have 10 chapters in the can, I decided the best solution was to edit and post two chapters this week. So, 20 and 21 will be coming out tomorrow.
I hope you all enjoy it.
I've mentioned this before, but it bears repeating: I love SOL largely post here because it allows me to get my writing out to people and get feedback as I go.
In the past, I've tried writing an untold number of novels in isolation, not sharing them with anyone and consistently failed to finish them. The first novel I finished, I roared through largely because my wife kept asking when the next chapter would be done. That's great for stories she loves, but a piece like "Too Much Love" is less to her taste. So, I come here for readers.
I just posted chapter 17, one of the first big turning points of the novel and it's gotten very strong, very positive feedback. The timing couldn't be better because I'm working on the first draft of chapter 30 now and it's been a slog, taking roughly ten days to write. Working alone without readers, I probably would have put it aside unfinished - at least for a while.
For the writers out there, if you want to keep your chapters manageable lengths, maybe don't try to cram two new exotic locations, two major character developments, and a "where are we now" into a tight chronology.
On the plus side for readers, chapter 30 is about 150k and clocks in at just over 23,300 words. So if the posting schedule holds up, you'll be getting lots of Nick and friends just in time for Christmas.
Minor spoilers ahead for Too Much Love
After a year of writing about New Rome, I should be fairly comfortable writing about places I've never been. It turns out what's really nerve-wracking is writing about places I've never been that my readers may have actually seen.
Big chunks of Chapter 30 happen on St. Martin and in Kathmandu, Nepal. I'm solving a lot of the problem with St. Martin by inventing a resort for the action to take place in loosely based on my research about Club Orient.
With Kathmandu, it's another story. The action takes place all around the city a few months after the earthquakes that devastated Nepal and the surrounding regions in 2015. And while I've done the best research my Googling skills can handle, I'm sure some of the details aren't true-to-life.
Here's the sort of thing that stresses me out: The golden spire atop Boudhanath Stupa was damaged in the quake. I've seen pictures of it standing with raw brick exposed, covered in scaffolding. I've seen pictures of it missing entirely. I have no idea what its state was in late July 2015, so I went with what works best for the story.
(And don't get me started about why some pictures of the eyes on the monument are blue and some are brown. Is it seasonal? Does it vary by year? Were they blue before the quake and brown after? I have no idea. But, I think I punted on that one.)
Anyway, all of this happens in chapter 30, which is turning out to be monstrously long. It may turn out to be fifty pages in Google Docs. I'm also on my fifth day working on it. This all makes me glad I've got a backlog of chapters to post.
Chapter 17 this Friday. In it, we see Nick and Company finally start to settle into the business of giving away huge amounts of money, Simon being Simon, Arwen being Arwen, and a major left turn in someone's plans.
(Blame six years of watching Mad Men for the largely unhelpful teaser.)
I'm thinking about stealing a page from Nick Scipio's book.
Not literally of course. I don't know if any part of "Summer Camp" has ever actually been published as physical books but if it has, I certainly wouldn't do anything so vulgar. Metaphorically however, Nick does something with his long-running saga that is starting to make sense for the Billionaire Life (of which I'm currently posting book 1: Too Much Love.)
At some point in his stories, Nick uses a framing prologue of a character looking back on his life and how he got where he is. This is hardly a unique technique to Mssr. Scipio, but what is pretty unique is that Nick creates a prologue with unanswered questions and doesn't answer them for multiple books. Anyone who's read Scipio's forums has heard endless iterations of "who's the wife?" and "who's dead?"
What may not be obvious to anyone reading "Too Much Love" as I post it is that it's going to be long. I just posted chapter 15, but I'm working on chapter 30 today and the story is still growing in scope. Realistically, it could run to 50-90+ chapters totalling 1,200-2,000 printed pages.
And it's book one. Book two will probably be notably shorter because it doesn't have to get the characters as far. I started book one with the stated goal of getting characters who behaved like relatively normal suburban eighteen year olds behaving like they lived in erotica without magically skipping any steps along the way. That takes about thirty-five chapters to fully evolve.
It wouldn't be anywhere near that long if the story were just about sex. But as that first arc evolves, I'm also setting the groundwork for Act II and Act III of the first book where the themes introduced are rather absurdly grandiose and, baldly stated, would make me put down a book that starts with six chapters of lingerie models playing Dungeons & Dragons and doesn't have a sex scene (except in flashback) until chapter 8 and go read something else. If you don't walk the road to Xanadu, that pleasure dome just seems gaudy.
I really could have only written this story for SOL. When I started "Too Much Love," I knew where I wanted to start, where I wanted to end, and that I wanted to introduce the Stone Family to the world along the way, but most of the path from A to B travelled through a blank part of the map marked "Thar Be Dragons Here." I couldn't have gotten as far as I have in this story without reader feedback. I had to write it and show it to people in order to shape it into an actual novel.
Having hacked through that jungle, found those dragons, and discovered they are much more interesting people than Saint George would have us believe, I now feel like there's an unintentional dishonesty in how this story starts. By the smallness and tightness of it, the geographic claustrophobia of setting the first nine chapters of it almost entirely in a single building, it declares, "I'm an odd, little story." But while "Too Much Love" is certainly odd, thinking it's going to be little is like stepping on the D train at Bleecker-Lafayette and finding out it runs to Kathmandu.
(At least three major characters make it to Kathmandu in Chapter 29.)
So, I'm planning to add a prologue to Too Much Love, but I haven't settled on a mechanism for distribution. Post-as-you-write is wonderful, but it's not a great mechanism for going back to the beginning and making changes. Either readers won't notice the change or they, quite rightly, will be annoyed that you changed what they already wrote.
Right now, my preferred mechanism is to post the prologue (when it's done) as a separate piece on SOL, marking it as first in The Billionaire Life and giving it a description that makes clear what it is, then directing interested readers to it. But, I'm open to suggestions of a better way.
Fellow writers, have you ever done something like this? If so, how? Readers, how would you like to see this material presented?