Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Seven-Volume Nightmare

Had a long-distance chat with the talented translator of "Orfy," and she told me about the multi-volume urban fantasy series she recently had to translate, and how seven-volume sagas are so cookie-cutter, and how translating a seven-novel series is sort of like having a job riding the amusement park roller coaster twelve times a day for six weeks. At some point the fun evaporates.

I told her I had a nightmare not long ago, where I was a character in a seven-novel series, and the author was waiting to kill me off in the seventh book. I felt like a car muffler that had been lodged loose from its moorings and dragged along below the undercarriage, scratching the pavement and generating sparks. I screamed in agony but I had five more books to go. The author kept checking on me. Apparently, he was at the wheel, driving the car, and every now and then he'd open his door, hang his head down under the car and check on me.

"How you doing down there?" he'd ask.


"Okay. We still got a ways to go. Hang in there."

So his other characters had to ride from Gaukyton to Plootz City, on the other end of the continent of Spleh! They weren't taking the express route. They'd ride on and meet some splendid mage who blah-blah-blahed them until they got into a little fight with the Sploogean Army, and blah-blah-blah. And some secondary character gets killed and then there's this blah-blah-blah about "Why must we pursue this journey?" and "This is not our choice. But the fate of Sploo-jah is in our hands." And so they go on, blah-blah-blah-ing to the next mage -- or dragon, or den of ogres -- and the next Sploogeans and maybe some fair lady beckons them with blah-blah-blah and they all sit round a fire and talk about things no human would sit through straight-faced without commiting at least one act of homicide.

We are now half-way through Book Three of Splornthorn Saga.

I'm still down below, scraping the pavement, a third of me rubbed off my skeleton, the sparks setting the remaining part of me ablaze. My flames make the vehicle look like a stock car champ.

Characters who do change, but in slow motion, are killed. They get dumped out from the back. But I -- still waiting to die in Book Seven -- scrape and scream and burn.

Up above, Plootz City is still a whole blorn-thorn away. Characters don't change. They do more of the stuff they did in Book One, just further up the line. Nothing happens except what happened before, only different. Even I, still being dragged under the car, am in no different situation.

"How you doing down there?"


So the heroes get to Plootz and reclaim the Sword of Bored, or whatever they came there to get . . .  and find that now they must return Gaukyton, and we're only at Book Five.


I awake from the dream recognizing the great career mistakes I made as a writer. First I conceive of stories as having endings. I conceive of characters as needing to make changes. And I forestall the inevitable and do all my ass-dragging before I complete the final draft, not after. Why cut out all the boring crap and useless, meaningless moving around, when that's what you're going to have to fill Books Two through Seven with?

Had I waited, I'd have a seven-book saga on my web page, with buttons taking you directly to Amazon to purchase the next thrilling book in the series.

No wonder so many of my students tell me the first thing they want to do is write a seven-book series.

The Fate of Sploo-jah has never been more dire.

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