For NaNoWriMo this year, I returned to Kingdom Come. This is a planetary colony where happily committed polyamory is a normal way of life. I’ve succeeded at NaNo twice with KC stories, and last year when I used a different theme for NaNo, I crashed and burned.
There was a time when I thought that KC novels would be my bread and butter. I’ve worked out the details of the world, and it’s easy to write romances set there. Since it’s polyamorous, I have a wealth of untapped possibilities of conflict and romantic entanglements.
But these entanglements sometimes leave me flummoxed. I do have some poly friends (via internet; I met them because I was writing polyamory) but their experiences, though valuable, are not complete. In particular, I have no way of knowing how a group of only three or four might be pressured by society to expand the group to at lease six, a much more acceptable number.
I’m looking forward to writing an intriguing mess when group A (a married MMF group) is flirting with group B (A married MMFFF group) because together they make a “perfect eight” consisting of four men and four women. However, there is also “S” who is an ex-girlfriend of part of group B and the best friend of part of group A. Throw in a MM pair, a FF pair, and things get really complicated.
Of course, complicated can mean that my reader gets lost and loses interest in the story. It is a challenge to make sure the readers can easily remember which characters are important.
One way to do this is to focus on just one character. My 2011 NaNoNovel did this, which worked well since it was a romance about an arranged marriage. There was no question who would end up together…just whether or not they’d be happy!
Another way to do this is to write separate parts, each about a group of no more than five…three or four works better. My 2010 NaNoNovel did this, with part one being MMF, part two was FF finding M&M, then part three added one more F and joined them together.
Besides being polyamorous, people on KC are comfortable with the fact that human sexuality is not either/or. They usually simplify the description to saying that some people are at the heterosexual end of the spectrum and others are close to the homosexual end. Most people fall somewhere in between. So in the groups described above, the sexual preferences of each make everything even more complicated.
I began my 2013 NaNoNovel with the idea that I would focus on one character, however the first part turned out really focusing on all three. By the end of that part, the character I’d focused on had a partially HEA (Happily Ever After), but one of the M’s HEA was questionable.
Now I’m into part two, and I know that the final HEA will involve more than the original MMF. I know exactly who. My focus shifts to the M whose HEA is in question, but I do tell the story from different POVs. I try to limit these POVs though… one big giveaway that a character is going to be part of the final HEA is that they get a POV.
I have a scene coming up and I’m struggling with what the body language will look like. One married M who is slightly to the hetero side of center flirts with a married F who is very close to the homo end of the spectrum. The flirting is innocent and condoned by both marriages… the two married groups flirt with each other. The end result of this flirtation is that the M and F will become very close, but not in a sexual way. I don’t want their initial flirtation to be awkward or embarrassing, but I also want it to be adorable and non sexual, especially on the F part.
Part one ended up being around 70,000 words, which is just about perfect for a novel. Adding in part two, I thought it would be shorter, for a total of around 100,000 words, but now I’m thinking part two will be just as long as part one. That’s longer than I want. Yes, I could edit it down…
Or I could split it into two. Part one does get a HEA…but you get the sense that it is a fragile one. Part two has the MMF unit getting their final HEA with a few more additions to the group marriage.
The thing that appeals to me most about this approach is that it lets me tell a more complete story. I have another KC novel (Under the Radar) that is on the shelf for similar reasons… at the end of the story I knew that their HEA was fragile. The second story pulled it all together.
The thing I like least about this approach is that it makes neither novel function as a stand-alone, especially the “part two” novels. I prefer to be able to say that you could read any of my novels and know what’s going on without having to read the others first.
It may not be a bad thing, though. You could read both parts of Under the Radar without ever reading my other KC novels. Same with my WIP, tentatively titled either A Brave New Whirl or From Earth to Kingdom Come.
Step one is to finish writing the actual story. Second, take some distance from it. I might define this distance as going back to Under the Radar and writing its part two. That would keep my brain in the same world. I’m just not sure whether that’s enough distance…
Step three is to go back through A Brave New Whirl and smooth it out, making it one long novel in two parts, that could be split into two novels. Then it’s off to the beta readers, and through as many cycles of revision as it takes to be ready to query.
Hopefully, querying will be successful, and then I get to polish it up even more. Even more hopefully, readers will like it enough that they’ll want to read more KC novels…and more…
Because I can always write more!