So I've been planning Steelgods during this brief respite from writing, and so far it has been going...decently. I've constructed a document with character information (where I just name off characters and write everything I know about them). This exercise in the past has proven helpful during my actual writing of the characters, but then I'd save the document and never look at it again (exactly what I did with Where Gods and Mortals Dance). In either case, writing down things helps get the ol' brainstorming going, which has never hurt.
Next, I made a new document where I have all six Steelgods books, and I've begun an attempt to outline them. There are a few major issues with regard to the series that I need to address, but I am beginning to see a few possible answers to them.
1. The series needs a main, obvious antagonist. The first book had an antagonist, but it was not an enemy that would last the entire series. And while I know who the final antagonist will be, that is not going to be revealed until near the end of the series. So, for the next couple books, I need to have a clear enemy that will drive readers to continue reading because they want to see him/her/it fall.
2. The series needs more side-characters. I considered this while watching Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (decent, but not great HP movie). As those books come to a close, you see many key characters die. Many of them aren't main characters, or even side-characters, but minor people that you met once or twice. However, because you met them (and Rowling made them endearing), when you hear about their deaths you get a twinge of sympathy. As Steelgods will be only one book shorter than Harry Potter, I need to get some more side characters that I can do horrible things to.
3. The series needs clearer focus with regards to time and the main characters developing. I have ideas for what happens to Cevan, Devent, and Rosemary, but it can be hard to determine exactly where those ideas go. This can obviously be fixed by better series plotting overall, but doing extensive plotting was never really my strongpoint (discovery writer, ho!). Planning one or three books? Easy. Planning six? Not so easy.
These problems aside, Gears of Anbar itself has a few quirks, and in fact many of these quirks are issues I had with the first Steelgods while writing it.
1. Lack of progress. The issue here is: what is the drive of the characters? What happens that causes the end to be the climax of the novel? Who is the bad guy? Steelgods finally got one after about a week and a half of writing (he was already in the novel, I just wasn't sure how it all pieced together). Gears is having this same issue: how does it end?
2. Needing to outdo Steelgods. This is the second book. It needs to be bigger and better than Steelgods was. So far, at least the first third of the book (the amount that is plotted) seems to be much more exciting and interesting. But I am still troubled as to how the climax and end of the book will be. Can it outdo Steelgods? Can there be enough development and exciting things to beat Steelgods? My gut on this points to yes: Steelgods was very much a first book in a series. The scale of the issue was small (though its implication will reach out across all six books), focusing more on a Hero's Journey rather than a large series problem. The thing is: Gears needs to start the series' conflict. And though I have an idea, the lack of a solid antagonist (see above) is troubling.
3. What the crap happens in the second half? I wish I knew. I have about 200 ideas, but none of them have that "Eureka!" factor going for them.
There are a few things I can say, though.
1. Gears is going to be considerably longer than Steelgods. I'm guessing 150% of what Steelgods is, probably 150k? Maybe?
2. Gears is going to start a much larger conflict, one that will rock the entire Steelgods world.
3. Gears will be darker and have more action.
4. Gears will allow readers to take a step back and see the entirety of the world and the politics that shape it, and how those things play such a huge influence on Cevan and his future.
That's all the thoughts that have been going through my head. Steelgods hasn't really gotten to Alpha readers (nobody signed up...) and those who did get it haven't finished it yet. I can't edit a book without feedback, people!
Next up on my list is to plan Effulgent Corruption more efficiently. That is another book that could easily turn into a series (though it is currently planned as a two-book ordeal). Effulgent Corruption is also going to be way too long, I can tell you that already. I'm guessing over 200k. However, since I'm going to be writing it in January, odds are it will be finished before Gears. Gears will probably turn into next year's summer project...heck, I might write two Steelgods books in that time.
I also need to begin brainstorming for a third idea. I was thinking of writing an urban fantasy, or maybe a fantasy set during some time period people haven't used a lot. Not sure exactly what, though. World War 1 fantasy? That could be interesting. Or fantasy set in the colonial days. Hmm.