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Writing from the border of Sorrow Falls

Gene Doucette

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I’ve been listening to the audiobook edition of The Spaceship Next Door lately, and for probably the scariest reason all of you readers waiting on a sequel want to hear: I’m trying to remember how I did it.
I like to joke that every time I write a new novel I feel like I’m reinventing the form, and I appreciate that this sounds arrogant, but what I really mean is I don’t remember how to do it, so I make it up from scratch each time. And yes, I’m not at all kidding. Also, yes, it’s really terrifying.
Just about the only books I’ve written that I could say are like other books I’ve written are the Immortal books. I do go in already knowing the narrator pretty well, but there’s a reason one day I’m going to have to stop writing those, and that reason is: I am trying very hard to make them all distinctively different from one another. It’s more obvious in the novellas, where you have: high seas adventure; pulp detective; English period drama; Christmas story; regency romance. But the novels all tell their stories in a slightly different way too.
Get out past Adam, and I’m all over the place. The narrative style in Fixer is more serious (i.e., non-humorous) than anything else in my catalog, and it’s also in a pretty narrow third person. Spaceship has an omniscient third person voice for descriptions, tonally similar to Douglas Adams, so it’s not at all serious, until it has to be. And then there’s Unfiction, which sticks to the narrow third person of Fixer, adds framed narratives, and also has six different genre styles rolled into it, which impacts everything from how light the touch of the narrative voice is to word-choice and sentence length and structure.
So the good news is that when I forget how to write novels, I end up with something sort of different every time. From my perspective, that’s also the bad news.
I’ve written two novels since Spaceship: Immortal and the Island of Impossible Things, and Unfiction. It has also been two years since I last wrote for Annie Collins. This doesn’t put me far enough away to forget what I wrote, but I’m not at all sure how.
And that’s before we talk about plot.
Plot is, believe it or not, going to come along as I write, and it will get a lot easier after I’ve rediscovered the narrative voice. That said, there are some things that will make this extremely challenging.
  1. I’m gonna have to get out of Sorrow Falls. This is probably going to present the largest challenge, because everything about Spaceship began with that town, including my discovery that Annie Collins lived there. If you want to know the first character I created for this book, it was the town.
  2. Annie’s not sixteen any more. Charming, young, somewhat sheltered Annie Collins is almost three years older now, she’s in college, and she’s one of the most famous people in the world. One of her greatest assets in Sorrow Falls was that she knew everybody. Now everyone knows her, and she knows hardly anyone. We’re both out of our comfort zone here.
  3. Okay, one thing to freak out about regarding plot: I don’t know how to top (or even match) Spaceship. My current opinion is that plot solutions will show up when I need them, and this is 100% an act of faith on my part, informed by the fact that this has always worked before. One day I will end up being wrong, but hopefully not with this book.
Anyway, that’s all for now. Welcome to my nightmare, I guess. Let’s hope I figure out how to do this.
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