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Story Problems: The Catalyst Series

July 17, 2012
Posted at 12:03 am

Had a discussion on the Discussion Group that I thought you might like to know about. I made the observation recently, following some complaints about the pacing and issues with the story, that I now consider the posting of the story to have been a mistake.

I've got NO problem with the story itself, as I think it's a great story, and it's been a blast to write, and I'm not planning on stopping anytime soon, but my point was that the whole story had a whole series of limitations on it. While it did well enough to overcome those limitations, it did make it harder.

Then I decided to launch Book 3, "Racing the Clock". Since there was demand for it, and since I was ahead of the story, I decided to jump right into it. As I'm sure you're aware, that's caused some problems as well. Frankly, I'm not sure I would have changed any of those issues if I'd finished it ahead of time--after all, none of my editors mentioned the pacing was a problem ahead of time--but it brings up the issues with the story.

Book 3 had a LOT more limitations than the first two did. There were only three main characters, there were tons of new characters, none of whom stayed for longer than a chapter or two, the issues and characters could only be dealt with briefly before the next set was brought up, and several others hurt the story as well.

Again, I don't think the story is a Bad story. Instead I think the limitations on the story are simply too much for most readers to get through. As a result, I now think posting it was probably a bad idea. It paced badly, it's not fully developed, it wanders and meanders, frankly, it's got a lot of problems.

However, given all of that, I'm not about to stop writing it. Even if I never posted another word, I'd continue to write it, as it's a fascinated story that I'm dying to see how works out, it's a challenge writing around so many limitations, and I LOVE exploring so many characters (even if the readers don't appreciate it quite as much).

So the question comes down to: where do I go from here?

Do I simply quit the story at the end of the current book, and cheat all those who've stuck with it for so long? Do I go ahead and write it, already knowing it has the same limitations that the current book has? Or do I try to change the entire premise, and much of the past, to make it more 'acceptable'?

Right now, and this might change yet, I'm thinking I'll do a couple of things. I've already planned a LOT of changes in Book 4. I've also decided to cut it WAY back, so it'll hopefully end before it can become too onerous to read (like the current book has). I'm going to change up many of the basic characters (more on that later), and I've managed to learn a lot from the troubles that I've had with this book.

But beyond that, I'm going to try to Undersell the next book. I'll still post it, both on SOL and ASSTR, but I'm not going to try to attract any new readers. Thus the story description will be short. Something along the line of "More adventures of Alex." Just enough to alert the current readers that it's continuing, but not enough to sucker in new readers.

I know this sounds somewhat drastic, but I've been listening to a continuing litany of issues with the story, and the downloads have significantly dropped (although the scores haven't as much). Again, I blame the story itself, and it's own limitations, rather than the reader not being able to 'appreciate it'.

Again, it's been a Great trip, but the 3rd and upcoming 4th books just aren't good candidates for widespread public readings.

Now, I know many of you will complain that you've loved the story so far, but you've got to acknowledge that there are issues with it.

I think you'll like the rest of Book 3 (once Alex gets out of Phoenix, at least), and I trust you'll find Book 4 interesting, but this has been a Road Trip story, and the point of a road trip story isn't to reach the end as soon as possible, the whole story is the trip. Thus the focus is on who he meets, how he reacts to them, and how he(Alex)/they(Cate and Gail) learn from those encounters. So you really can't expect the story to move steadily toward a conclusion, and you also can't expect most readers to spend much time watching it wander around in circles.

Anyway, feel free to comment. I'm always interested in hearing comments and suggestions. Lastly, if you haven't already heard, there's going to be a Long delay before book 4 appears. I'm not going to start until both the current books are done, and then I plan on taking a break to refresh myself before diving into the next one. From there, I want to write out a complete first draft, and finish off the first 7 to 12 chapters before I'll start posting. Hopefully that won't take too long, but....

Anyway, it's been fun, I've had a great time, and I want to thank everyone for their kind consideration of this very odd, very strange story.