By the dead, but I’ve actually delivered four regular progress reports in a row. Whatever next?
This last 2 month period has mostly been spent revising the first book in my forthcoming trilogy, which now has a working title: A Little Hatred.
One character had an italicised internal voice a la Glokta that I decided to remove. Just wasn’t really helping. Rather than it naturally slipping into the prose it felt like I was constantly looking for excuses to include it, so it needed to go. With Glokta, the italicised voice is the acid things he chooses not to say. With Gorst, in the Heroes, the same thing worked because he hardly speaks at all. In the case of this character, though, she’s pretty acid and forthcoming in person, so the thoughts weren’t really adding much she wouldn’t say to someone’s face. Better that she say it to their face. A second character then started off with much too sophisticated a voice, and needed to be much more blunt and bluff, less introspective, less a thinker and more an unthinking doer, as well as both more admirable, brave and generous, on the one hand, but also more toxic, heedless and prejudiced on the other. More intensity altogether. The other five central points of view needed some less fundamental streamlining and improving, some bringing out of central concerns and traits. Inspired by Dave Bautista in Blade Runner I gave one guy incongruous little glasses – just gives the character a sense of softness and sensitivity he’s otherwise very lacking. Plus when things go wrong the fact he can’t actually see who anyone is adds a layer of confusion and danger to proceedings…
Then I took a major set piece that was told from one character’s point of view, and turned it into one of those sequences from many minor points of view that worked so well for me in the Heroes. Suits this project, which shows a big cross-section through a society in major upheaval, and makes for a more exciting and dynamic sequence. Then there were a whole load of plotting details that I needed to set up that I now know will become important later in one way or another. Characters to introduce, or maybe even just mention, that I hadn’t thought of when I wrote the first draft.
Then there were a whole load of details my research had thrown up that I wanted to slip in, some of which spin off ideas that give added texture and drama to a scene, some of which are just throw away lines. Then there were some tweaks and adjustments to the appearance and voices of secondary characters that have already started to develop in a slightly different direction than I originally conceived. And there was just a whole lot of cutting to be done. I was hacking up to 20% out of some of the looser chapters. Despite a lot of additions the whole thing went from 177,400 words to 170,700. Probably that will increase again over future revisions as I add some detail into the setting and the characters, but for now it’s reading a lot tighter, with more vivid and defined voices, and I’m aiming for 170-180,000 with these books so that’s pretty much spot on. A good place to park that first book. I wouldn’t call it a second draft yet, but maybe it’s a one and a halfth draft?
I had been thinking about doing the same thing to the second book, which I wrote extremely quickly and hence there’s plenty to do, but when it came down to it a) after doing the first one I couldn’t be arsed, and b) having only just finished the first draft of the second one it’s maybe better done with more distance, plus c) the priority is to finish a draft of the third so I can get the first ready to publish, then there’ll be plenty of time to polish the second. So I settled for a quick read-through and a plan of the various things I’d like to do with each chapter when I can be arsed. The basic lesson though is that the last part of three is great, but the other two could do with a fair bit of sharpening up and improvement. It’s a book with a long, slow build to a massive set piece and a set of nice twists, which is fine, but there just needs to be a bit more edge to, and a bit more action in, that buildup.
Things are gonna get messy over the next month or two as we’re moving out to do a load of building work, plus with christmas there will be many distractions. My main aim is to do a load of reading and come up with a basic plan for the third book, which is still pretty vague in my mind, with a view to cooking up a detailed plan for the first part in january so I can make a start. The dream would be to get a rough draft of the third book done for autumn next year, so I can tackle revisions to the first book by the end of next year and publish later on in 2019. We shall see though. I make no promises…