What’s it about?

Before I start a new section or chapter, my first question is what needs to happen next and from whose point of view? Even though I have a rough outline, there can be a hole that needs filling to keep the story moving or smooth out the action. In the Ruby Spider Conspiracy, each side knows it must either win the battle or cease to exist. There is no middle ground, so it becomes a punch and counter-punch battle between the ICC (Raisa and Cholpon) and the Ruby Spider (Kassar and Ai-mei).

In Chapter 44, the Ruby Spider prepares to test its most virulent weapon against the city of Lagos, Nigeria. The battle lines are being drawn as the ICC identifies the conspirators and collaborators. Kassar knows that a successful demonstration in Lagos will increase recruitment for the Ruby Spider and make it less necessary for them to operate in a clandestine manner. They will have proven their power so that they can increase their numbers to eight hundred million and have a weapon powerful enough to eliminate the remaining three billion people who are against them.

In Chapter 45, Cholpon informs Raisa about the Ruby Spider’s activities in Lagos. Raisa rushes to produce a universal inoculation that will counter Ai-mei’s plague. She knows she doesn’t have time to create a perfect antidote, but takes it one step at a time, waiting for Cholpon’s direction to proceed. All of this activity lays the groundwork for the next three chapters leading to the third plot point, in which Raisa and the ICC suffer a major set back.

Each section and each chapter leading to the third plot point in Chapter 48 must answer the question: “How does this expose the weakness in Raisa’s character that leads to a major change following the third plot point?” All through the novel, to that point, Raisa has fed the misconception that she cannot be a successful scientist without sublimating her emotions and shutting out other demands.

After her failure in the third plot point, she will set aside her misconceptions and step into the role of emotional leader. As a leader, she will recognize that the battle is not only for people’s lives, but also for their minds and dedication to making a better world. The final quarter of the story will concentrate on that growth in Raisa’s character.

Love Interest in Non-Romance Novels

Whether or not to include a love interest for the protagonist in a non-romance novel is a matter of choice for the author. Most people have at least one love interest in their lives, so my choice usually is to include some sort of love interest even if it’s just an intimate friendship.

The advantage of having a love interest is that it shows a different aspect of the protagonist’s character. One doesn’t have to dwell on personal habits and everyday hygiene, but how your protagonist treats her lover tells much about  her attitude toward others. The challenge is in meshing the romantic scenes in your novel with the overall plot and protagonist’s arc. How often have we skipped through pages with the obligatory sex scene that makes no sense in the story at all.

Of course, the love interest is a major character and has to show up at least ten percent of the time. This isn’t always convenient for the protagonist, but isn’t that the way it is in real life? We’re cruising through the day and our honey calls up and asks if we’d like to go to dinner or a movie. We’re not likely to say no. Six hours later, whatever we were doing has slipped our minds.

The trick is to make the love interest an integral part of the plot, perhaps as a collaborator, or maybe as a victim. Then, when they show up, the reader knows that something is going to happen. It’s a way to insert a plot twist that doesn’t appear artificial or contrived.

In Angel of Mortality, at the third pinch point, when Raisa is faced with the new challenge of creating an antidote to the nanobot plague, she asks Damir to come visit–partly to share her misery, but also to bolster her confidence. Damir, whose goal is to marry Raisa, is disappointed that she has no interest in that, but still supports her emotionally.

Writing Habits and Personal Preferences

I believe most writers, most human beings, are creatures of habit. I need seclusion with no distractions to write. I get into each scene mentally and emotionally so any disturbance that breaks me out of that ruins the spell. My friend Kee Briggs wrote anywhere, using a pencil and paper. I admired that, but in many cases, his protagonist was a paper projection of himself.

With Phu going into the hospital this week, I realize that when he comes home, I will have to change my writing habits. It’s doubtful he will be able to take care of himself for a while, so I will have to adjust. I started writing again when my wife was fighting breast cancer, so I understand what has to be done.

To organize my activities, I separate tasks according to the time I will give them. Even with careful planning, any individual task can vary considerably. Some things, such as personal hygiene, meal preparation, and household chores are controllable, if not predictable. Many other items are not because they depend on others, or are complex. Doctor’s appointments, for example, are wholly up to the physician and may not happen in a timely fashion.

My daily goal is 1,200 words, which takes six hours on average. I like to write when I am fresh, which means I often take a nap before starting a section. It is not unusual to vary that, although I seldom write for more than ten hours straight. With Phu out of commission, I will have to rearrange my schedule to meet his needs and take on the chores he normally did before. I may have to settle for four hours and 800 words.