Bad News and Good News

Some bad news for this week, though it does have a silver lining to it.

As regular readers know, I’ve been working on a new urban fantasy series as of last summer, and I finished the first draft of Book 1 at the end of January.  Since then I’ve been talking it over with my beta readers and thinking about what edits I’d like to make and where I’d like the series to go.

Unfortunately, the longer I’ve thought about it, the more I’ve come to realise that I’m not really happy with the book in its current state.  There are several reasons for this:

1) The series was originally conceived as an urban fantasy story with some progression fantasy elements.  It’s also much more human-centric than the Alex Verus series – in the first draft there are no magical or supernatural creatures at all.  While this has made the series more coherent and grounded than the Alex Verus books, it’s also meant that it’s much more “materialist” than most of my books have tended to be – much of the story has ended up revolving around money and power, and now that I look at the whole thing, I’m just kind of dissatisfied.  It doesn’t feel magical enough.

2) While I’ve developed a lot of the new world and setting in detail, creating a new urban fantasy setting is a huge job and a lot of stuff necessarily got left out.  In particular, a lot of the story elements in Book 1 are started but not finished – they’re not really developed, partly because I haven’t figured out where they’re going to go yet.  I did this a lot in the Alex Verus series, too, but I’m not sure it’s working well enough this time.  Several of my beta readers commented that the first book felt incomplete/unsatisfying (there aren’t resolutions to about 2 out of 3 of the main conflicts) and that’s not the feeling I want my readers to be walking away with after reading book 1 of what’s supposed to be a long-running series.

It’s a bit frustrating because I’ve been working really hard on this book for a really long time and I’ve now got it in a state where it’s finished and I’d really like for it to be done.  I’ve already got contract offers from my US and UK publishers for the first few books of the series and I could pretty much decide to sign those right now and have book 1 out in 12 months or so (if I seriously wanted to speed things up, I could self-publish it instead and have it out in a fraction of that time).  Unfortunately I think that if I do that, the result just won’t be good enough.  I’m sure lots of people will buy book 1 based on their good opinions of the Alex Verus series, but I don’t just want people to read it because they liked Alex Verus.  I want people to read it because they liked Alex Verus, then go on to like this series just as much.  And in the book’s current state, I’m not confident that that’ll happen.

So I’m going to go back to the drawing board and do a rewrite.  I don’t know how long it’ll take, but I’m expecting that it’ll be months.  (This means that the Alex Verus short story that I had been hoping to do in February isn’t happening any time soon, unless I get so sick of the rewrite that I decide to take a break and do something completely different for a few weeks.)

On the positive side, I’m sure that the book’s going to be much better by the time that I’m done.  Another side effect that I suspect my readers won’t mind is that with the new plans that I’m drawing up, the series is likely to be longer.  My initial plan for the series was that it would be quite a bit shorter than Alex Verus – the world was much ‘smaller’ and there wasn’t as long a journey for the main character to go on or as much to do.  With the new plans that I’m working on, the stakes are going to be a lot higher and there’ll be a lot more room for more important things to happen.

So that’s where things are at the moment!  I’ll give you more news once I have it, but for the foreseeable future, I’m going to be fully absorbed in rethinking/reworking the foundations of my new setting.

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14 Responses to Bad News and Good News

  1. Richard says:

    Much as we all would like a new book (or books!) as soon as possible. We (I and sure that it is “we” not “I”) want the best that you can write. The Alex series was brilliant – and we all want the same again.

    So take all the time you need (and not a second more – with apologies to Harry Nilsson!).

  2. Celia says:

    I’m sorry for the frustration of having to rewrite your book. That must be maddening when you had thought it was done. 🙁 Your vision does sound intriguing though!

  3. John says:

    By this point, you could slap your name onto hot garbage and I would buy it. It means the world to me as a reader that you don’t take advantage of that, and continue to create works of art for us to get lost in. I can’t wait to read it once it is ready.

  4. jamie says:

    Much as I’m looking forward to the new series, good on you for not rushing it out there “just because”. There are too many books published/self-published that seem ill-thought out, or could use a good rewrite (or at least a professional edit). I’d much rather you take the time to make the book something you’re proud of and can stand behind than something that seems incomplete or slapped together to earn quick royalties.

  5. Mary Carter says:

    I’m glad you’re doing what feels right. I will patiently wait!

  6. Bob says:

    Maybe some time away from the new series might give you some perspective. Have you thought about perhaps doing the Alex Verus novella, a world you know well, then later returning to the new series?

  7. Kat says:

    As a reader, I would prefer to wait longer for a quality product, so take as much time as you need to get it to where you’re satisfied. I’m sure you’ll remain on my auto-buy list for many years to come.

  8. Aaron Lloyd says:

    I’m in the middle of watching _Whisper of the Heart_, and your note resonates strongly with what the main character is going through as she becomes a writer.

    It gonna be an even better book – and that’s what it’s all about, right? The road to awesome is never a straight line, thank goodness. 🙂

    Take the time that you need – we’ll be happily waiting. 🙂

  9. Carla Quinn says:

    Good for you. I know you’ll find your magic. I’m looking forward to whatever you come up with, and I don’t mind the wait!

  10. Tony says:

    I agree with and respect your decision to rewrite the whole book. An urban fantasy should have a magical feel. Also since you are going for a rewrite may I offer one suggestion? If you want to make this series more grounded then i suggest that you base your system of magic in these books on actual occult traditions existing in real world. For example base western magic on Kabbalah and Hermeticism. Anyway I wish you all the best in your endeavour.

  11. Torry says:

    It is your book and you have to be happy with it. It is difficult to take that step back after all that work and re-evaluate the plan. It is also difficult to hear the critiques and not be disappointed but the book will be even better because you did listen to the readers. We are firmly in your corner. When it is really-we will be here!

  12. Starla says:

    Take your time. We’ll be here when it’s done.

  13. mykhe says:

    While I’d naturally love for the book to be out sooner, I have commented on other author’s sites / works that I’m exceedingly happy that they aren’t using money as a superpower. I have a couple of authors that I read who do this and while it works for the worlds / characters, my impression as both a reader and writer is that it’s kind of a cheap escape. And there are enough idiots here in the U.S. who think money *is* a superpower that I hate seeing it duplicated in what I’m reading to escape just that situation. So *thank you*!

  14. Cheryl Lane says:

    Hi Benedict, I really loved your Alex Verus series. So much I could say but I’ll limit my comments. In the final book I was feeling really bad for the direction Alex was taking and everything was feeling dark, then you introduced November! What a wonderful surprise! I listen on Audible while sculpting and I laughed out loud! Belly laughs and tears! So well done! You are a true talent and as much as I am eager to read more if your work, you must be satisfied first. It will come.
    BTW I consume lots of books and I just cannot find a new and satisfying read. You’ve spoiled me!

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