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Planning Legacy

A reader asks, "Do you know how the series will end?"

Yes. Unlike most tie in novels which are written one at a time, the Legacy series was plotted in one piece. Here's what happened.

In the spring of 2009 Melissa and Amy and I were talking about how Stargate Atlantis ended and how we weren't satisfied with where things were left at the end of season five. We decided that purely for fun, as a fannish project in our fannish identities, we would write a virtual season six and that we would tell one long story that we posted in twenty "episodes", twenty installments. We sat down and talked about it A LOT, on and on about how we would tease out various threads and how we would tell the story.

Then, in the summer, MGM announced that they were tearing down the Atlantis sets and selling the parts on Ebay. I said, "You know that means the movie is dead. This is it. No more SGA." Which made us sad. :( And then I said, "Wait! What if this was like Star Trek, where the books continued after the series was cancelled and went on for years?" Melissa had written several Star Trek novels, and I was currently working on Death Game, so we both had experience with tie ins. I said, "Let's ask Fandemonium and MGM if we can do this -- if we can take the sixth season we plotted and do it for real! What's the worst thing that can happen? They say no?"

So we did. We took our idea to Fandemonium and Sally loved it. MGM was a hard sell, however, as continuing a very successful franchise isn't easy. We did a very detailed complete outline of the entire series and a very dense and specific synopsis of the first book. MGM agreed, with the stipulation that they had complete line-edit control, that every single word in the book is read by their people twice -- every single adjective can and will be changed, every last word through the approval process two times to make certain that there is nothing that MGM does not like.

Then we started writing. We had some structural changes to make to turn twenty "episodes" into six 100,000 word books, different places that the books would break, different scenes that would stick out because of where we paused. But all six books are one entity. This is one long story cut into six pieces.

This is a tremendous advantage! It means that we can plan things and set things up and leave plot hooks and clues knowing exactly where they lead. Nothing is extra. Everything leads somewhere. It may not be clear at the end of the second book where it goes, but everything that's in has a place and will be necessary by the end of the last book. Yes, we know how it ends. I've written a number of scenes from the last book, including one of the climactic ones, including Sam's last scene, and including one that ties up a major subplot. Most of the last book isn't written yet, though everything through the fifth one is finished. But it all will hang together. It's amazing to be able to write knowing where you're going and to have the kind of continuity that you don't usually have in tie-ins. Sally at Fandemonium was amazing to buy this idea, and I'm incredibly grateful for the opportunity.



( 12 comments — Leave a comment )
Nov. 3rd, 2011 03:40 pm (UTC)
That's quite fascinating. Do you know how the books are selling? And what's the reaction of MGM so far? Do they like it? And what does their editing actually look like? Is it in Word with changes in a different color, with notes like "this is good" and "this doesn't work"? Or something completely different?
Nov. 3rd, 2011 05:57 pm (UTC)
I'll jump in here, having just dealt with the MGM edits on Allegiance:

The books are selling well, according to Fandemonium, although we don't have exact sales figures. (Or at least I don't! Jo keeps closer track than I do.) We don't deal with anyone at MGM who was actually writing or production staff for the show, and the licensing people don't really tell you whether they like things or not, only whether they'll approve them.

We get the MGM reviewer's edits back in a Microsoft Word document, using both comments and colored text within the manuscript, and reply using comments and Track Changes. The majority of the edits are minor -- lines that seem awkward or questions about things that seemed confusing that we may need to clarify. Sometimes we just need to verify that something is canon, or that it's possible given canon. We really haven't had any major content changes based on MGM review; I think we lost one swear word that was considered above a PG rating, for instance, but it's mainly stuff like that. Our editor at Fandemonium has a pretty good sense of what MGM will accept and what they won't.

The MGM reviewer did ask us to add a "previously on Stargate Atlantis"-style recap of the first two Legacy books as a prologue to Allegiance, so Melissa just wrote that a few days ago. Hopefully we can move along toward publication soon!
Nov. 6th, 2011 01:46 am (UTC)
Although I knew without doubt just how many hoops Jo and Melissa had to jump through, I'm so glad it has come up here.

I for one am looking forward to seeing all the books published, as I'm really excited about any development of the Wraith. And these two authors have done an excellent job.

Thank you.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:05 pm (UTC)
What Amy said! :)
Nov. 3rd, 2011 10:27 pm (UTC)
Adding my two cents.... Our first point of contact is Sally at Fandemonium, who does what I think of as the job of a regular editor - making sure the plots make sense, that the story moves forward at a good pace, that the character development is clear and believable - only she also has to make sure that anything we do fits with canon. She's also the person we talk to first when one of us has an idea that we think might not work for MGM. As Amy says, she has a very good sense of what MGM wants from the tie-ins.

The MGM reviewer's job is to be picky: to read every word twice or three times from the point of view of protecting the studio's interest in the show. For me, the biggest hurdle has been getting approval for the terminology we had to develop for the Wraith, because so much of the world-building on the show was done entirely visually. It's all canon, but there aren't canonical words for all of it, and each of our choices had to be approved.
Nov. 3rd, 2011 05:53 pm (UTC)
keep posting like this it’s really very good idea, you are awesome!

Nov. 3rd, 2011 07:06 pm (UTC)
Thank you for reading! :)
Nov. 3rd, 2011 08:17 pm (UTC)

As a reader of these wonderful books am also thankful for Sally at Fandemonium. I so love these books and look forward to reading the others...soon. Maybe with the interest in these books, a movie maynot be completely out of the picture(ok I still believe in rainbows). A recently interview with JF in London kinda fuelled my fancy...but then my fancy doesn't require much fuelling when it comes to SGA.


Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:14 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!

I hope that stargate will eventually be back someday, though I expect it will be with a reboot or something like that rather than a continuation. I hope so! I hope there will be a new series one day. But we have fifteen wonderful seasons to rewatch! :)
Nov. 3rd, 2011 09:25 pm (UTC)
That is totally nice to hear! It is actually good to know what MGM would approve.

Do they approve of the idea of a John Sheppard/Teyla relationship or like where that is/was going. It would be nice to know if I am right that they will end up together. (Or will I have to start writing my own Fan Fiction on that?

I happen to be writting my own Star Trek novel, actually revising it now, but it has Captain Jonathan Archer married to T'Pol and they have a daughter, T'Lin. I had Jonathan previously married to Hoshi as a minor occurance and then she dies (or so you think) in a shuttle explosion along with their unborn child. There is time travel (from the future to the past) so really all Star Trek series (and some other novels) are tied in.

I just happen to like writting and just haven't touched StarGate Atlantis yet just because I'm waiting to see what else happens, or if I might have to write an alteration, lol.
Nov. 4th, 2011 05:31 pm (UTC)
MGM has to approve of everything, not only the concepts, but the actual words and punctuation of every line! So yes, they approve John/Teyla. If it's in the book, it has been absolutely approved by MGM several times!
Nov. 4th, 2011 07:04 pm (UTC)
Glad to hear it. :) :D
Can't wait for the next book to come out.

Will MGM allow you and the others to totally keep StarGate Atlantis alive and write more books that are like more seasons, possibly giving StarGate Atlantis the same amount of seasons as SG-1?
( 12 comments — Leave a comment )