Now that I’m in the middle of actually writing the sequel to The Pulse, I’ve got a lot of decisions to make with regards to plot and the new directions the familiar characters from the first book will take in the next phase of survival in the aftermath of a grid shutdown.
This will be my eleventh book, but only my third novel and first sequel. I knew from the beginning when I first conceived the idea for The Pulse that the story would easily require two books if not three, to fully develop the characters and show how they change and rebuild their lives after such a devastating, world-altering event. But though I knew who I wanted to write about and what situations I wanted them to face, I didn’t know what would happen in the first book any more than I know how the story is going to play out in book two.
I’m not the kind of writer who can work from extensive, detailed outlines, at least not for fiction. I prefer instead to start with situation and character and just write, sketching out the first few scenes in my mind but not much more than that. It’s an enjoyable process once it gets started and the characters start taking on a life of their own, but I’ve found that it takes getting over the hump of the first few chapters for this to happen. The opening scenes are always hard to get past, because this is the point where the story can go in most any direction, and the writer has a lot of decisions to make as the action here can result a huge variety of subsequent actions that are hard to predict.
The opening scenes are also difficult because I find myself writing and rewriting them over and over. In a novel, there is nothing more important than the opening. When I pick up a book I might take the time to read or download a sample on my Kindle, I usually make the decision to read it or not based on the first two or three pages. So as a writer, I tend to work on those pages a lot. I write them and rewrite them and then go back and tweak them over and over again. Then, as I move forward into the story, I go back and edit the most recent chapter as I move forward through the next one. By the time I’m done, I’ve done all the rewriting I’m likely to do right along with the creative process. This eliminates the need for multiple drafts from start to finish, yet yields the same or better results. In addition, my publisher works on a fast timetable so as I finish and polish these chapters, I’m submitting them to my editor even as I’m still writing the book. By the time it’s finished, it’s mostly ready to go to the copy editor. Hopefully this one will move at a good pace, because it is scheduled for publication this summer. I expect to be finished with the writing sometime in March or early April.