Sunday, 14 February 2016

Read fast, then read again...

I've been watching something interesting related to Kindle and my books. There's a new feature called KENP, which basically tells you how many pages people read in your book (on their kindle) over a period of days, if they borrowed it from the Kindle Lenders Library.  What is surprising me (in a good way) is that people are reading one of the books in less than a week, sometimes in just a couple of days.

I always aim to write stories in three or even four strands that intertwine. I call it tourniquet plotting, because the strands tighten and coalesce as the book climaxes. Well, that's the theory. What it means is that the books are best read in a compressed time-frame. If you read a chapter once a week, frankly it will be hard to keep up  with the twists and turns. There is no equivalent (maybe there will be one day) of the kind of reminder/recap you get when you watch the next episode of a series like Star Trek or 24. Imagine watching one episode a month of something like Game of Thrones...

But the four books also intertwine. They are one story, in four parts. As some people already know, it was meant to be a trilogy. But halfway through the final tome, the story took a turn with the arrival of the machine race and the inevitable destiny of Pierre. Once that entered my head, I couldn't walk away from it, and rather than have an 800 page finale (an oxymoron, by the way), I split it into two books. That was a bit risky, because the third book ends on something of a cliff-hanger, which is not really what I intended. It's one of the reasons I keep the price of book 4 low, even though to an extent I consider it the best.

The other thing I tried to do is layered writing. This means you can read the books more than once and find things you didn't really notice the first time around. I have quite a few readers who've read everything at least twice. The only way to do this as a writer is to write and then rewrite and then rewrite... Something to do while awaiting that elusive publisher... People often ask me how long it takes me to write a book. My answer depends, but it's basically about two years: a year to write the first version, then about nine months re-writing and layering it, then some months polishing it.

People say 'write what you know'. But that doesn't make much sense in science fiction unless you're Stephen Hawking. I prefer 'write what you'd like to read.' I love reading complex stories that immerse me in other worlds, stories I don't want to put down. I remember devouring the original Dune books, and then later the sequels and prequels written by Frank Herbert's son. I lost sleep over those books.

So, it's been gratifying to see a few recent views where people are losing sleep over mine, and appreciating the scope of the tetralogy (yep, that 's the correct term, not quadrology). Sometimes I look over the four books and wonder where it all came from. I've really no idea, just glad it arrived in my head and headed down to my fingertips. Not sure I'll ever top this series.

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