The Final Calling: Progress Report Twenty

Chapter Twenty is now online.

The serial is paid for through Chapter Twenty-Two. Chapter Twenty-Three is getting close.

I’ve started writing Chapter Twenty-Five.

Chapter Twenty-One will be posted Wednesday, November 3, but perhaps not at the usual time — it’s possible I won’t get to it until late that evening, rather than the night before, and I’m afraid any books purchased may not ship until Thursday, November 4th, because I have family plans that may not allow me to get to the post office until then.

And with the usual stuff out of the way, I’d like to say something about how this novel is developing.

I’ve been asked several times whether writing a novel as a serial affects how I work, and I’ve always answered that I don’t really know. Up until now it’s been a theoretical point of little practical importance. In the three previous serials I didn’t see that it mattered.

However, it’s now moved from the realm of theory to the real world, because The Final Calling is turning out to be one of the novels that’s changing shape as I write it. That didn’t happen with the other three serials. It’s happened lots of times with other novels, but never with a serial before.

It didn’t matter with ordinary novels because no one but me ever saw the first draft. This time, though, thousands of people have seen at least part of the first draft, so I need to explain what I’m talking about.

What’s happening is that as I write it, I’m rethinking it, mentally throwing out things I’d intended to include, and adding or altering others, and these changes are significant enough that the complete novel is not going to be the one I thought I was writing for, oh, the first dozen or so chapters. Or more.

As I say, normally this is no problem; I fix it all in the second draft and no one else ever knows anything about it. This time, though — well, some of what’s coming up later on may contradict what you’ve already read. To cite one trivial example, there weren’t three Chairmen of the Council of Warlocks in Ethshar of the Spices, there were about fifteen. More importantly, certain characters are going to do stuff in upcoming chapters that doesn’t follow very well from what’s come earlier.

When I revise the novel I’ll change the earlier chapters, but there’s no point in doing it before I finish the first draft — you’ve already read the original version, and besides, I don’t do that; it slows me down far too much. Not to mention that when I finish the first draft I may wind up undoing some of the later changes instead; I can’t really know which stuff I want to keep until I have a complete story.

This may be somewhat confusing or annoying. I apologize for that. It will all be fixed in the second draft, and the final, published version of the novel will be as cohesive as my usual.

I may be worrying about nothing here; it may be that the shifts will be too minor or subtle to bother most readers. I honestly don’t know. I only know how it looks from my side.

But now I know that no, writing it as a serial doesn’t change how I work, but you might wish it did. And it’ll change how you read it.

If something doesn’t seem to fit, or doesn’t match what you thought you’d read, it’s probably not your imagination.

I thought you’d want to know.

50 thoughts on “The Final Calling: Progress Report Twenty

  1. I think “He doesn’t allow the killing foreign dignitaries” is missing a word.

    It’s nice to see that the Wizards’ Guild won’t be trying to assassinate Vond, at least not right away; the rationally negotiated, somewhat surprising, compromise is an oldie but a goodie.

  2. Good to see at least one wizard balks at the usual Diplomacy By Fire of Guild tradition.

    Interesting to see the threads of the story come together. This is surprisingly late in the story, and I’m still not completely sure what the primary conflict to be resolved is. Vond’s existence? The future of the former Warlocks? Hanner finding his way once more?

  3. Watching Vond and Ilthinia, I gather we have a loose cannon and an overly self-certain magic user.. but upon reflection I’m not sure which deserves which title the most. This is FUN to watch actually. From a suitably safe distance, anyway. 🙂

    And far as I know, it’s the characters and stories that evolve on you as you go that are the best ones – or anyway they mean a tale with proper life to it. I’m enjoying watching this grow, and looking forward to reading the final version – best of both worlds imho.

  4. I’ve been wondering/dreading what will happen when Ithinia hears about Vond’s recent activities, esp. his connection with Warlock House — I wouldn’t be entirely surprised if she blames Hanner for something: not telling her about Vond sooner, not doing something about him himself, whatever.

  5. I absolutely LOVE this chapter! Two phrases popped into my head reading it, “Hoist be her own Petard” was the nice one.

    Other than for pay do any powerful Witches or Thurgists owe Ithuinia a debt that would compel them to help Ithinia harm a Warlock?

    I appreciate you long explanation in the Serial Box, interesting how this serial has departed from the trail blazed by the earlier serials.

  6. I, for one, have no problem with the published story being different from, contradicting, or whatever this first serial draft. After all, it’s the final work which I’m *really* interested in; the fact that I get to read a first draft is just a bonus.

    Hmm… I wonder if using the reversible petrification on Vond inside the city, then taking his statue outside the city and shattering it would count as killing foreign dignitaries inside the city?

  7. I like the idea of being able to see the transformation of the novel over time. I think I’ll enjoy the final novel even more (and it also gives those who have not paid up yet a reason to donate so they can get the finished product and see the changes).

    I also like the way Vond’s personality shifts are rippling out.


    1. Seeing the work in progress morph is a value added experience, and one that makes owning the final book more worthwhile.

    2. The developments are adding some spice to the story. Having a warlock or two around, with a different approach to magic could be very useful for the Wizard’s guild.

    3. I really liked how you developed the characters who were off screen by the comments about them.

  8. After reading the bit about Fendel’s Greater Transformation, I have a vivid mental image of Vond as a hamster–a very angry, flying, orange-glowing hamster able to move mountains…

    On a more serious note, I can’t speak for anyone else, but I consider it a treat to get to watch a skilled writer at his craft, so the changes don’t bother me a bit. How often does the average person get the chance to watch a novel take shape?

  9. This has the added advantage that it provides an incentive for people to buy the final version.

    What size of changes are likely to occur? Changing the number of chairmen of the warlock’s council is not likely to have a large effect on the story (or maybe it will 🙂 ). Maybe Hanner was one of the longer lived ones.

  10. Hanner was by far the longest-lasting; he survived as long as all the others put together.

    As for how big the changes are likely to be, I honestly don’t know yet.

  11. In our reality-TV-centered world, it’s very interesting to watch something being crafted. I’ve read your changes to the earlier chapters, and all of the changes seem very small. What’s the old saying: “No battle plan survives first contact with the enemy.”

    So, I look forward to seeing the changes as well as the resolution. It’ll be interesting to see. Hanner, in the past, has been nicely stubborn in finding solutions outside of those expected by Faran and Ilthinia. His humility makes him open to ideas that can’t get thru the walls of their arrogance. Vond is getting more humble, and is damned useful, so killing him, I think is short-sighted on Ilthinia’s part. Nor do I think that she’ll find a willing ear with the witches. With Vond, they have a power source that they cannot otherwise duplicate. But the Sterren wild card is still in the deck, waiting to be played.

  12. Vond isn’t useful as a power source for Witches. He COULD power a witch if he wanted to, but why would he want to? Does the average witch even KNOW that witches and warlocks can cooperate well? I don’t recall ever seeing that applied in any book.

    Broadly, I can’t see that witches have any reason to treat Vond differently than any other super-powerful magician.

    I like Kay’s comment that “Watching Vond and Ilthinia, I gather we have a loose cannon and an overly self-certain magic user.. but upon reflection I’m not sure which deserves which title the most.” But I’m pretty sure Vond is the loose cannon. Vond kills or hurts people for no very good reason and built an empire, Ilthinia has been arround for centuries without doing anything too loose cannonish, it simply doesn’t occure to Ilthinia that she might NOT have the ability to kill Vond if she puts her mind to it, which strikes me as overly self-certain.

    But one of the main reasons I think Ilthinia is wrong about her ability to take Vond without significant help is that if she can it makes for a boring story and Our Heroes doen’t significantly help to solve the problem. If these were actual people I’d bet heavily on Ilthinia simply based on the fact that she’s AWARE of Vond and will have the initiative in any interaction, and her ability to survive for centuries implies an ability to take reasonable precautions.

  13. It’s a treat to both see the way a writer writes, and also in a minor way to contribute by making a donation! The “making of” extras on DVDs I often find more interesting than the movie.

    I like stories that could go anywhere, and this is one of that sort. As a random idea if Vond is drawing on a limited source of power more warlocks who learn how to do that might dilute Vond’s own power.

  14. This progress report makes me feel better about my habit of waiting for the final novel before reading it. (Mostly because I’m impatient, and when I finish a chapter I want to find out what happens next….right NOW.)

  15. I too wait for the final novel oftimes, but that’s because a year between volumes is soooo long. Each time a Harry Potter (sorry) novel came out, I’d have to go back and reread ALL the previous volumes (or most of them). A week is just long enough for me.

    And sorry for mispelling Ithinia’s name.

  16. I don’t mind the fact we’re seeing a first draft, in progress. I know things will change as the writing goes along. It makes it more interesting that way.

    When the book actually comes out, I’ll read it again, like I have before.

  17. I agree that the witches probably won’t see Vond as a power source, but I do think Gordon’s on the money about the fact that they’re not going to be eager to step up and deal with Vond, simply out of self-preservation. Stories of Vond’s power seem to be reasonably well-known; in any case, if the mighty Wizards’ Guild came to me and said, “Hi, there’s a magician we want removed, but we want you to do it,” I’d start wondering why they didn’t just do it themselves. The two possibilities that would spring to mind immediately would be:
    1. They’re unsure of their ability to kill him.
    2. They don’t want to suffer the consequences of killing him.

    Neither one would make me especially keen to do it for them.

    Besides–it seems sort of late in the book to introduce major new players.

  18. > Besides–it seems sort of late in the book to introduce major new players.

    Since one of the new players will likely be Teneria and she’ll likely have some new insights, I’m looking forward to it.

    Speaking of Teneria, I wonder if she’ll finally get her long-delayed second date with Adar?


  19. Teneria will be turning up soon, and the witches aren’t stupid. Altruistic and trusting, sometimes, but not stupid.

  20. I believe that the ending of this book will be completely awesome yet somehow an anti-climax. I do not want to say too much and no, I am not going to respond to direct questions but knowing the Ethshar genre, I believe that I have an idea about what’s going to happen.

  21. >>Teneria will be turning up soon…
    She seemed a little loose-thread-ish not to show up sooner or later. This chapter actually seemed like a huge “sooner” beacon… I’m interested to see how that turns out, because Teneria seems like another possible source of re-attunement once she’s been anywhere near Vond using his magic.

    I’m still wondering if Adar will show up. The two of them seemed to have a certain chemistry, though that may have simply been a witch helping someone in need. He probably would have gone back to the Passes, which isn’t anywhere near Ethshar of the Sands, so who knows… Though the age difference is significantly smaller now than it was then (he’s still 34 and she’s gone from 18 to 28).

  22. Pingback: Charles
  23. Hi. I’m away from home, but this time I got everything posted on time, and made the announcements in e-mail and on Twitter and so on, but I still forgot to bring the password (a random string of numbers and letters) that would let me post Progress Report Twenty-One, so it’ll have to wait until I get home.

    Chapter Twenty-One is posted.

  24. <<>>
    I don’t know if it actually is, but some people might consider it to spoil something in the chapter…

    Gita was the name of Serem the Wise’s wife who was called on the Night of Madness. However, they lived in Sands… I don’t know if that’s picking up a loose thread, a common name, or what, but I figured it wouldn’t hurt to highlight it.

  25. I suspect it’s the fact that html uses angle brackets, but I’ve frequently found it safer to use [square brackets] for emphasis or faux html comments.

    In other news, just finished reading chapter 21. Hmm… I was wondering when Hanner would recall that tapestry. Though even if the world inside is big enough for everybody to stay in, what they’re going to DO is still tricky.

  26. As any number of people have said, it seemed inevitable that the tapestry would be remembered and re-appear, the question was just how. I’m not sure how sending warlocks through it to the uninhabited world beyond is different than settling down to farm the area in Aldagmar.

  27. Ryan, the biggest difference is that they would no longer be in The World. I am certain the wizards would want the warlocks sent there, and the way back removed or destroyed.

  28. >Sure. Let me rephrase; how is that better for the individuals involved?

    Well, instead of trying to find a place in an already existing society that has forgotten them and owes them nothing, they can start over from scratch, divying up huge tracts of land, plentiful natural resources, etc.

    And the return tapestry would mean the possiblity of trade.

    Which makes me wonder how many off-World settlements the Wizards Guild already has established in secret.


  29. Another difference is that these individuals decided not to try getting a start in the middle of nowhere, with wild beasts around (and a climate colder than they were used to), when they had the illusion that they could go home.

    Now they’re in Ethshar, and it’s not like what they remember from a couple of days/weeks ago. The tapestry has houses already, and is a *nice* place, not overgrown land which was never very highly populated to begin with. And the with the tapestry, it’s really much closer in travel time than where they were.

    So I can definitely see it as being appealing (although not, of course, to Vond).

  30. Not the same Gita.

    Some character names may change in the second draft, if I realize I’ve used them before in a way that might cause confusion.

  31. I suspect that the only reason the Wizards’ Guild hasn’t suggested sending the displaced warlocks off to a pocket-world is that they’re making use of all the ones they know about. After all, a Transporting Tapestry takes a lot of time and effort to make.

    When they find out that there’s an unused world available, they could very well insist that the Warlocks go there…at which point Vond will be forced to choose between living without his powers and quite probably dying with them.

  32. Bill; The only difference between the area beyond the tapestry and the area they were being offered in/around Aldagmor is that the dangers in Ethshar are already known and trade with the larger socieities of Ethshar harder to accidentally destroy. They would have been out on the frontier in a resource rich area with lots of available space.

    Goljerp; The difference being having seen the changes makes some sense, but the connection back to the World seems a little tenuous. On the other hand, I’ve wondered a few times if that eventuality isn’t a parallel for how the World originally came to be colonized- presumably using sorcery. I’ve been meaning to ask what the god’s say when asked about history, particularly pre-war/ancient history.

    Ben; I think trying to exile that many people is one of the buttons that would push Hanner to being the less compliant, and much more interesting, leader he can be.

  33. Whoa. Now THAT is a very interesting idea, Ryan. Are you suggesting that Ethshar itself may have been created by a Tapestry or similar magic? I suppose that would explain the unusual geography…

  34. I’ve always assumed that Ethshar is an artifact. That it takes magic to make it habitable at all confirms that to me, the people who built the towers CAN’T have lived in Ethshar.

    It may have been built by the gods or the demons or by people, but SOMEONE built it, and Lawrence telling us in a section of this blog that the gods don’t actually have free will makes me think that they are PART of the construct rather than its builders.

  35. Wait a minute, I must have missed that posting by LWE. He posted that the Gods don’t have free will. Can anyone confirm this? That really changes a lot of things and brings up stuff like why do the Gods answer prayers if there isn’t free will hmmmm.

  36. He explained one time that Gods do not always hear. A Theurigst in WARLORD said that a) A God might not like you in particular or b) that deity may not be able to pick out your voice (there are a lot of people asking for stuff at the same time). In the World they don’t often answer prayers but I think what LWE meant was that Gods can’t break rules and people can.

  37. An additional note about Hanner’s Tapestry; let’s give the Author and Hanner a little credit. I am sure that Hanner built his tapestry to be comfortable. I honestly do not think that that particular tapestry world was not built with comfort some in mind. The difference between living in a magically created comfortable refuge as oppossed to farming in Aldagmor should be obvious.

  38. Hullvald, I am fairly certain that the specifics of the world created by the tapestry were not customizable. After all, an apprentice had to be sent in simply to confirm that the atmosphere was breathable and that the water was potable. A “comfortable” world could clearly not be guaranteed. There’s only so much one can cram into a tapestry scene that will result in a working tapestry.

  39. Doug:

    In the blog section from an earlier chapter (I forget which,) LWE confirmed that the gods don’t have free will, in that they can’t choose NOT to answer a properly-performed prayer. They can set conditions, but not refuse it outright. The information has been added to the wiki, I believe; there should be a link to the quote there.


    True, a comfortable world couldn’t be guaranteed, but clearly, they could try to stack the deck in their favor by not making a tapestry full of hellfire and brimstone and the like, no? (Which brings up the question of why Derithon choose to make HIS tapestry so gosh-darned forboding!)

  40. Hullvald:
    Granted, but my point was merely that an idyllic scene of a cabin in a glade with blue skies and a pond doesn’t necessarily mean that the pond is water and not sulfuric acid, that there aren’t diseases with the equivalent effects of e.bola on denizens of The World, but not on the native residents, etc. I do understand your point as well, however. They clearly were doing what they could. I was just offering that “what they could” wouldn’t guarantee much.

  41. Lawrence:

    So you clearly have several characters from the history of Ethshar that you know quite a bit about. Is there even the possibility that you might write about some of them? Your views on the viability of a book about Fendel have been made clear previously, but what about Javan or some of the other big names? Are they all similarly uninteresting enough that it’s not worth writing about? I know I, for one, would love to see another book about the creation of a spell, especially one that is useful enough that a lot of wizards want to learn it. Something that causes actual internal Guild conflict could be very interesting.

    For that matter, it could be interesting to learn more about one of the current major players, such as Ithinia, but a tale from her early career. Any possibility that you would write those or possibly collaborate with others so that those sort of stories could be told? I’m betting that the Ethshar market, such as it is, would appreciate that sort of thing, too.

  42. I’ve never ruled out writing about Fendel; I’ve ruled out writing about a young Fendel. There’s no way I am ever going to write about any wizard in a setting prior to YS 4700 or so, and for Fendel I’d put that at YS 5180.

    Javan? Not ruled out. Likewise Ithinia. But I don’t have plans for either one right now.

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