The reason I split Empire Dance down into more manageable 50000 word chunks is that I couldn’t work out how to write it. The loose story arc I had in mind was far too sprawling and complicated to be written in one go, especially by someone who had absolutely no full-length writing experience at all. I can see that I’d have got about 30k in, and then given it up as a bad job. The fact that the pieces that have survived over the years (small parts of ED1 and ED2, and most of the Battle of Kantara in ED3) didn’t really fit together bears that out, I think. You can only eat an elephant one bite at a time.
Creating the characters for ED1 helped to flesh out some of the story’s themes, and that really came together with ED2 – the degradation of Adrian XII’s linear iterations, Anstiss’s get-out clause, Pompey-LI’s schizophrenic traits manifesting themselves as multiple personalities. Plus there’s Ibsen’s arc, which hasn’t even come into play yet. Whatever the plot is about (Irians on a Holy Crusade to reclaim their promised worlds, as it happens, as well as the inscrutability of the Kiiren and the titanic bitch-fight for the Imperial Throne), most of the character arcs actually revolve around themes of identity.
Having that laid out has helped me to get back into the Dance – ED3 is almost 80% done now, and the storyline is shifting itself around ahead of me to accommodate new twists on that main theme. It’s becoming a slightly different story – albeit a stronger one, I hope – and suddenly it’s fun to write again.