I mentioned a while back that I had started novelizing my long-languishing sci-fi comic, Merchantman Halflight, with the intent to develop it into a series of humorous books. At this point I’m pleased to say the project is coming along very nicely.
Something weird has happened along the way, in the course of transitioning the story from comic scripts into a novel format. Gags that worked before have had to be completely repositioned, or some jettisoned outright, for the story to come together. Wherever possible, I’ve tried to save the most important jokes I could. And in some cases, I’ve even had the opportunity to add new interstitial content. Oftentimes, dialogue that spanned several issues is combined into a single scene, but not necessarily in the same order. (I call it the Peter Jackson effect.)
Adaptation is a weird, weird thing. I wonder if this is anything like what Douglas Adams went through, taking his original radio scripts and making them into his seminal novel (and sequels). Gads the world is a worse place for the loss of his talent.
My goal all along for the first book was to stop at around 80,000 words. That’s a good length for something relatively breezy in sci-fi, but I was concerned it might be hard to wrap that up at a good place. With the comic format, I originally had an idea all along that I’d do print versions about every 150 issues, and conveniently the first major story arc ends right about there. Unlike Rich Burlew, I never approached any of this with anything like long-term planning.
Fortuitously though, the need to rearrange major parts of the story and combine several issues into one scene, skipping others entirely, has brought me to a good place numerically. I’m currently sitting at about 45K words, just past issue 89. The story arc I wanted for this book all along would end after issue 152 or 153. According to the math, at my current pace that means I can expect the book to wrap up exactly where I wanted, with about the word count I wanted. For the first draft, anyway; it will need tinkering.
I couldn’t be more thrilled, though. I’m going to make it! Now I’m shopping subtitles, hoping to come up with something good. Back in the day, I used to think I’d call the first book “Five Stars” because the story arc I intended takes place at, literally, five different star systems; it always did seem a bit cheeky though. I’m playing with the idea of “Get a Crew”. It would fit in a number of ways. For the second book, the subtitle has been long locked-in and I only ever considered changing it when I was concerned the first book wouldn’t cover the whole arc.
After that comes branding a series and coming up with good typography and iconography to tie everything together. As the wise man said: Those are good problems.