So why write this and tell you guys what's up? Well, I also know what's it's like to be a fan sitting around waiting for the next novel in your favorite series to come out and have felt the frustration that comes from not understanding what the writer is up to. Especially if novels are being released by said author that AREN'T in my favorite series (George RR Martin fan since 2001 here, please feel my pain!).
So I'm going to try to explain my thinking on what just happened with FM4 and with the whole King Henry Tapes series. It basically has to do with the school timeline and my desire to not have it turn into filler story that you guys are going to be skipping to get to the really good stuff in the shop timeline. (Aside: I recently read Scott Lynch's new REPUBLIC OF THIEVES and I found myself doing this and thought...ruh roh)
When I originally decided on the series being 12 books, I knew the whole school timeline thing could give me trouble in the future. I had to give myself room to work with, to either expand or contract it depending on how the novels ended up working and depending on how much I thought you guys would put up with. That's why I spent a couple months working up a master timeline for King Henry's stay at the Asylum and then sketched out about a page or two outline for 13 different stories I could write in that window.
Some of these stories are really important and I knew they would reveal things that you guys would need to know for the mainline (like Meteyos' intro in FM2 as an example) but other ones I was less sure about. Now that we're 3 books finished into the series we're approaching some of those questionable stories that I could tell you but do you really need 8 whole chapters on Russell Quilt's wedding and bachelor party? And are you going to enjoy it when it's in a novel with the other timeline kicking so much more ass than some kids screwing around at the Asylum? Or will you resent it and skip ahead? And do I really want to spend the 2-3 months it would take writing it and give up the 30k-40k words of novel space that I could be using on the other timeline?
These are questions I've been asking myself since the start. How far can I stretch the school timeline? Should it go the whole series? What to do, what to do? Now that I'm in the middle of FM4 the beast finally needs confronting.
FM4's mainline story is shaping up to be...YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR ITS WONDERS! But the school timeline story, the first of the "stretching" possibly filler stories I could have put into a book? I've been having trouble with it. First, it was planned that I'd go back and fill in details on King Henry stealing the Lady's staff at the end of year one (Sessions 17-24, that's right! Taking place BEFORE the Winter War story in FM3, I skipped the damn thing and you didn't even notice, you horrible fan, you!).
But that didn't work out. It felt like going backwards and...it just wasn't big enough. Or interesting enough. And it didn't introduce any new characters or tell you any info you needed to have. It was filler and that's when I first confronted this problem with the realization that the 13 possible stories I could tell were overkill. I don't want filler guys, I don't want to write filler, and I don't want to push filler out on you. The only thing worst than not getting a timely book by your favorite author is getting a book from your favorite author that feels like filler...and a paycheck. When you have a subplot about Raj getting some from Naomi...ya know you're in trouble...
So, deciding that 17-24 weren't worthy and unneeded I took another look at my 13 possible school timeline stories and removed some chaff. We dropped down to 10 left. I decided I'd try the story of King Henry getting over his Mom's death post Session 6 from FM1 and I wrote 4 chapters and...it's just not enough. It's getting killed by the mainline in FM4 because the mainline is awesome and...YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR ITS WONDERS!
So here I was...a few days ago. FM4 half done...4 written in the school, 7 in the shop, one was a breeze to write and so enjoyable and everything I could hope for and the other...was a pain in the ass and could be called nothing but a disappointment when compared to its brother. It's hard to kill my lovelies and make choices like this, but I yanked the 20k out of FM4.
I then told myself: Raley, you got to be cold and mean and as hard as you can be with these things. So I went back to the 10 possible school timeline stories still left and I cut it down to 7.
That's final. All we're losing is filler or things I've already told you but would have been filled (there's that word again) in more detail. What's left are the 3 stories already in the series and 4 that contain important information you need for the mainline (ex: King Henry meeting Plutarch). This means that the school timeline and the back to back structure will be ending in FM7. The tapes exist, King Henry made them, you just won't "hear" them. This is probably a good thing because these books are going to getting quite long without the extra 30k-40k words. I mean we haven't even got to the...YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR ITS WONDERS!
What's this all mean? It means I'm starting over with a different school timeline that's much more interesting and robust and holds its own weight than the last one. I've already written a chapter in it, it's...YOU ARE NOT PREPARED FOR ITS WONDERS! It does tack another month onto writing the novel, but I'm already ahead of schedule and it's really worth.
It also leaves me with 20k in prime King Henry Price POV story which I will be turning into a novella called "Griefing". Strangely, what didn't work next to FM4's mainline does work by itself without all the extra stretching I would have needed to work it into 8 chapters. It will probably be out in December so...yay, extra King Henry for Christmas!
TL;DR: I started over on the school story in FM4 and have decided the school timeline will be ended in FM7. There will be a new KH Short out sometime in December. Raley is awesome. I should tell people to buy his books.