So just to be clear, when I asked for feedback on some thoughts I have about AQ and the future of the series, I wasn't actually asking for permission to do such-and-such or planning to count votes. I was afraid people would think when I invited discussion about how I'm writing the series that they'd think I was asking for advice or trying to get a feel for what people "want," and it appears that I did indeed give that (mistaken) impression. The fact is that a lot of what I post here is thinking out loud. I may be interested in what people say, and occasionally, comments might spark an idea, or make me realize that I have not explained something adequately or that some character is not fleshed out enough. But it will be a cold day in hell before I ask, "Hey guys, how do you think I should resolve this?" or anything of that nature. (Even my betas get questions more along the lines of "Does this work?" than "What do you think I should do?")
As I've said before, I already know how the whole series ends. I know who lives and who dies. I know who gets married and I know who appears in the Epilogue. (Yes, I'm going to do an Epilogue. Unlike Rowling, I haven't already written it, but I have already visualized it.)
There are a lot of things I don't know yet -- I know, for example, that the American wizarding world is going to be changed at the end of the series, but I haven't worked out all the exact details. I know the titles of books six and seven, but I don't yet know the title of book five. There are lots of plot points I'm still working out, some I won't even think about until I get there, and there are things about which I might change my mind.
Feel free to give me your input, but don't worry that I'm ever going to let readers tell me what I should write.
So, dovetailing into that, there is an interesting column on the literary merits of the Harry Potter series at Tor.com. (The writer takes on Harold Bloom's famous evisceration of Harry Potter.) But in the comments is a revival of one of the old debates about Rowling's writing -- namely, how much did she have planned all along, and how much did she make up to fit the story while she was writing the conclusion?
One of the examples that always comes up is Horcruxes. They aren't mentioned by name until HBP. Then in book seven, we get the Deathly Hallows, that hadn't been mentioned until then, and what seems (to some) like a hastily-engineered MacGuffin hunt. So there has long been speculation that Rowling had not even thought of Horcruxes until she was writing the sixth book, and this is generally considered an indictment against her much-praised storytelling and seeding of clues earlier in the books. Likewise the debate about Harry's Invisibility Cloak -- way back in Philosopher's Stone, there is mention of other invisibility cloaks, and only in Deathly Hallows do we learn that Harry's cloak is a super-special one that's better than all the others. So, did Rowling plan for it to be one of the hitherto-unmentioned Deathly Hallows all the way back in book one, or was this a retcon she pulled out of her ass in book seven? There are fans who passionately believe that she had everything planned out from the beginning, and others who fervently insist that she was just making shit up as she went towards the end.
Writing a series that is, not an imitation, but loosely paralleling Rowling's series, and thus trying to do a lot of the same things Rowling did (differently), I would like to humbly suggest that I have an inkling of the writing process involved. Of course all writers are different so how I do things is not necessarily, and probably isn't, the same way Rowling does things. That said, I think the answer is somewhere in between, at least if Rowling's writing process is at all like mine. There are enough clues planted early in the series that I definitely believe Rowling had something along the lines of Horcruxes and Deathly Hallows planned in the beginning. I think she knew Tom Riddle's diary was going to be more important than it seemed later, and I think she probably did plan all along for Harry's cloak to be special, not just a handy plot device handed to him in book one.
But did she already know all about Horcruxes when she wrote Chamber of Secrets? Had she even settled on the name "Horcrux?" Maybe, but my theory is that she had a vague idea that Voldemort was using something akin to the old fairy tale trick of "hiding your heart" to prevent being killed, she may have decided he had seven (because seven has a nice literary resonance and would make great fodder for multiple quests during the course of the series), and she certainly knew his diary was going to be special. But I doubt she really had Horcruxes completely worked out at that point, and I'd be willing to bet money that she had not decided on exactly what each of the seven Horcruxes would be, let alone how the Trio were going to find and destroy each one.
Why do I think this? Because I have similar vague "This thing is going to work like this and that will be really important later and this guy needs to be defeated and it will turn out that this special thing was special" (is that vague enough for you? ;)) outlines which will certainly prove to be different in eventual execution than I am vaguely thinking now. You know, from my meandering as I write each book, that I don't even know exactly how I will resolve all the plot points in each book when I start writing.
To give you a concrete example: in AQATDR, I had Darla's scheme to sacrifice Innocence to save Mary planned all along. (And incidentally, I had that subplot planned starting from book two, but I did not know when I first introduced Darla in book one what I was going to do with her in book three.) However, I had a devil of a time working out just how it was going to go down, and exactly how Darla's scheme would work. I tossed around ideas for summoning Death, for Darla going with Innocence into the Lands Beyond (not the Lands Below) and Alexandra going after them, and various other resolutions. What I settled on worked, in my opinion, but I outlined all kinds of variations and even started writing a different one, so things could have gone quite a bit differently, though the end result -- Darla dies, Alexandra saves Innocence, but at a cost -- was always going to be the same.
Hopefully that does not shatter anyone's illusions about my ability to concretely plan out every detail of my plots ahead of time. ;) So you have seen quite a few clues about things that will happen later in the AQ series, and there are specific events and general subplots and an overall story arc that I've had planned all along, but if I were able to reach into the future and read book seven right now, I'm sure there would be many things as surprising to me as they will be to you, because there are a lot of things I haven't figured out how to pull off yet. And I'm absolutely going to make up some shit as I go along.
AQATSA Status Update
I am halfway through Chapter 42, with almost 256K words written. At this point, I have the rest of the book mostly planned out. The decisions I still have to make are more along the lines of tactics than strategy, if that makes sense. I.e., I know the remaining confrontations, events, conversations, and plot twists that need to be written, and what the outcomes will be, but there are specific details ("How will Alexandra get from point A to point B? How do I get that character into that scene? How can I make these two things happen in the correct chronological order and how do I get around this little plot hole?" etc.) I am still working on.
But my current (loose, subject-to-change) outline says 45 chapters total, so I am going to very tentatively announce that I am targeting the end of July as the date by which I will finish the first draft.
And as a bonus, here is a sneak peak at one of Alexandra's new friends: