Flames

by wjw on July 7, 2022

So I’m now well into Heaven in Flames, the third book in the Metropolitan sequence. I’m confronting the normal problems of writing a sequel: how much of the backstory to reveal at any given moment, working out how the characters may have changed, and— after a gap of 25 years— how well I remember what I was trying to accomplish in the first place.

But I’m also adrift in a sea of words, ideas, and characters that never seem to sit still enough for me to get ahold of them. The book is moving forward, but it’s crawling. Half the scenes are tentative, and I’m not sure whether they’ll end up in the final book, or be replaced by a new idea that might come along in the future.

I’m a disciplined writer: I work every day that I’m home, and I carefully outline each novel-length work ahead of time so that I have an idea of where I’m going. The outline isn’t helping: I find myself writing scenes that take place in between the scenes detailed in the outline. I seem to be thrashing away at this book, and I’m clearly not in charge of it.

I’d be worried, except that this has happened before. The writing of the first two books was equally troubled: I remember battling my way through the manuscript for a couple years and then postponing writing the third book because I was too mentally exhausted to continue.

The truth is that I was a pioneer. No one had written a book like Metropolitan before, and I had no guides or models. I had to hack the book out of the wilderness with nothing but my trusty double-bitted axe, and all that took time.

Since those first two books turned out well, with a Hugo nomination and a pair of Nebula nominations, I have a reasonable confidence that Heaven in Flames will be a sequel worth reading.

I’ll just have to go through a lot of grief first.

{ 7 comments… read them below or add one }

John Appel July 7, 2022 at 9:34 am

I am grateful for the struggles you are undertaking on our behalf, and look forward to the eventual result!

John F. MacMichael July 8, 2022 at 12:48 am

Glad to hear you are working on this. I have always wanted to know the end of this story.

Jane Lindskold July 9, 2022 at 10:38 am

I enjoyed the first two books, and look forward to the third.

Paul Cooper July 11, 2022 at 1:49 pm

Hey, the next time a bunch of mothers get started on how hard labor was, you can nod wisely and say, “I completely understand that.”

Peter Tillman July 11, 2022 at 5:40 pm

I’m SO happy you are writing the windup volume for what might be my favorite books you’ve written. Gosh, 25 years later! My, how time flies….

Max Kaehn July 14, 2022 at 12:40 am

I’ve been looking forward to this for years!

my dog is named hannah July 29, 2022 at 8:42 pm

I haven’t checked in here lately, but I’m pleased that I finally did so. This is fabulous news (except for, I guess, the whole fighting through foggy fields thing). For what my 2 cents is worth, I can’t wait to buy this book. Good luck with your process, strenuous though it is.

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