Since the Human Legion books were launched a few weeks ago, a few people have commented on book lengths. Some have said the first book is too long, others the second book too short.
Book length is very important to get right, and I am doing something unusual in not setting all books to the same length. So I’m going to spend a few moments to explain why they are the lengths they are and, more importantly, to set expectations to Human Legion readers about what to expect for the remaining books in the series.
Actually, I’ve finished the first draft of this post and realize I’ve spent more than a few moments, so first of all here’s the summary. The first book, Marine Cadet, is 140,000 words long and is a double-length opener to the series. The second and subsequent will be aimed at 75,000 to 85,000 words. From my experience of writing novels, they are likely to err on being longer rather than shorter 🙂
Which brings me to another point. Why are there six books listed on the main page of this website?
When I’m reading a book, I like to keep a feel for how far through the story I’ve got to. I’m not sure why it’s so important to me, but it helps me enjoy the dramatic pacing. It’s the same with a book or TV series. When I know I’m watching episode 22 of 24, then I’m excited because big things are about to happen as we build to the season finale. (Hopefully).
When I’m writing, it’s the same. I like to know the structure. I like to know how my character and plot arcs develop across the series so I can foreshadow and start building those changes early. I like to fit in little nuggets knowing they won’t fully pay off for another few books (for example in the first book, Arun makes a promise to the Night Hummer, Springer admits she’s thinking about children, and we never learn what happens to Hortez. I haven’t finished with any of those ideas yet).
The big story isn’t immutable. I adjust as I develop the characters in more detail, and as new ideas occur to me, but they’re adjustments to a plan, a plan that is getting firmer all the time. Which is why I have in my mind the set of six novels. The Human Legion story will definitely end with Book 6.
The biggest change I’ve made so far is with the first two books.
According to Spring 2013’s outline, the first book ended with the climax to Operation Clubhouse and the second had much more description of the battles on Antilles. I’m not going to say too much here about what happens in books 3-5, but at the same time I was bringing in a lot more ideas about the fleet battles that go on in that part of the series.
I began to feel that the battle descriptions in book 2 were overly long, and that Operation Clubhouse was by far the weakest of the novel-ending climaxes – not a good way to open a series. I did briefly consider expanding to seven novels, but I didn’t want to feel I had one big novel that I had artificially chopped into two smaller books. So I combined the first two novels into the final version you see now of Marine Cadet, and added more space fleet engagements later in the series.
By the way, I’ve a strict policy of never commenting directly on reader reviews, either here or on Amazon. But I might reply to general points as I have done here.
And now for some website updates due this week.
Thanks for reading.