Holiday schedule and trying to disentangle the outline for Palace of the Red Desert (plus work, plus some distractions on Les Twittars) kept me away from these here pages for a few days. Of the aforementioned, Desert was the thorn in my side that was both the sharpest and most deeply piercing.
First draft of the outline choked up at the 99.9% mark. Oh, you think you know where you're going with all this? Think again, smart guy. THUD. I ended up having to think my way back from an entirely new ending, then drop back to the 50% mark, and rework the story from there forward. I now have something that might cut a decent amount of mustard, but I'll have to wait until it's cleaned up and made into a proper outline instead of just a bunch of bullet-point plot cards to be more certain.
One of the other things long-form work has put me into the habit of doing is plotting things from fairly high up. Summerworld and a few other early books were written entirely off-the-cuff in the first draft, and then cleaned up, albeit only modestly, in successive drafts. Flight of the Vajra had its first few chapters written blind, and then I dropped back to write a whole proper outline of the story end-to-end. In both cases, I had an idea of where I wanted to go, but it was an emotional idea; I knew what kind of feeling I wanted to produce in the reader, and to what end. But by the time Vajra was under way, I knew I would need a proper roadmap for how to get there; I couldn't let something that big be dictated entirely by the tinglings in my gut.
Red Desert unfolded something of the same way. I knew what the ending needed to feel like, and why; I just had to find the right story to tell that would produce said feeling. Some toss-and-test was needed. No matter; a week's frustration to get me fixed on the right pole star will make for far smoother sailing almost immediately.
One other potential pitfall: length. Ideally, this should not be a long book — 120K to 130K words, tops. The temptation is to let the scenery and the local color carry much of the storytelling — standard-issue stuff for most anything loosely described as "fantasy" or "historical". Here, the less I let those things take the reins, the better. Atmosphere is atmosphere, not narrative.