(Warning: much blithering about my writing process below)
So, I finally broke past 60k on Resistance, finishing a scene I’d been stuck on for weeks. I also cleared the last of the crazy workload from my day job and relaxed enough to take a deep breath. I wrote all day yesterday, suddenly getting to grips with the main plot again.
And then this morning, all my concerns about this book reemerged. I’ve been feeling for a while that it’s just stretched too thin. The pacing is so slow it’s almost going backwards (pacing is always my issue), but at the same time the supporting characters felt undeveloped and the worldbuilding flimsy. Every time I glanced back, I realised I’d missed out a sentence with some key information that was needed to understand the plot. Instead of a carefully interwoven plot, I had macrame done blindfold in rubber gloves. Some of this was pure midnovel slough of despond stuff, but usually when I find myself writing more and more slowly it’s a sign that I’ve subconsciously recognized a major problem and I won’t be able to make progress until I fix it. Sometimes that issue is to do with whether a scene is necessary for the plot, sometimes it’s character or theme related. Often it’s structural, because I really like strong structures in everything I write.
Until now, I’ve been writing in alternating point-of-view, between Iskandir, the Dual God of Tiallat, and his lover the dragon Halsarr. Over the last few weeks, I’ve been idly thinking that the balance between the two characters is wrong. Iskandir has the stronger character arc. He has all the emotionally punchy scenes. It’s set in his country and it’s his people who are suffering. All Hal’s plots were in support of what was happening to Iskandir (who is the most infuriatingly twisty character I’ve ever written, even before everything goes to shit). I’ve been too buried in everyday stuff to think about that properly until today. But this morning, I asked myself, If I switched to only Iskandir’s pov and cut Hal’s completely, would the book still work?
There were a handful of potential plot issues, where the leads where parted. Apart from those, the answer was, it would be a better book.
So I’ve just removed ten chapters. Seven of the ten can be adjusted and rewritten in Iskandir’s pov, although that will involve massive cuts. That process, though, should let me deeper into Iskandir’s messed up head. It should give me opportunities to spend more time with the supporting cast, who are his friends, which means I might be able to make their choices look less moronic than they do right now (this was already top of my second draft to-do list). It will let me tighten the focus on Iskandir’s history and relationships to the people around him, which should enrich the book.
On the other hand, I shall regret losing Hal’s perspective, because he’s delightfully dry and snide, but has a lovely long perspective and real compassion. I was having fun writing a pacifist dragon, but his perspective became less and less central the further I got into the book. A character arc of endure your lover’s pain might be true to life (been there, lived that), but it doesn’t drive a plot particularly well. On the plus side, I’ll have a wealth of missing scenes to post at a later date. The bit I shall regret the most is his first three chapters, which can’t be rewritten, because he and Iskandir are a thousand miles apart in this section. It’s full of pretty bits, though, and although I know you have to kill your darlings, it stings when it’s for a structural issue rather than because they’re just extra frills.
However, I now feel so much happier about this book. For the first time in months, I’m excited rather than panicky, so I know this was the right call. It’s going to have a knock-on effect on when I finish, but I’m confident it will be a better book for the change.
I’ve been going through those three lost chapters of Hals’ perspective, trying to work out what missing information I will need to compensate for elsewhere, and I found this description of the last battle at Eyr, which I thought some Reawakening readers might appreciate before it disappears into my archives.
Hal watched the sunset from his tower, with a glass of wine in his hand. It was rich stuff, and usually he lingered over it, enjoying all the sensation and pleasure that even a small indulgence would grant this body. Today it tasted like ashes, and the darkening skies over the mountain brought no comfort. It was hard to be comforted by nature when his heart was cold.
This was not new. There were nights, although less now than when he had first woken, when the memories surged over him. He knew they had him tightly in their hold now, and he could not stop the grief. He would live through it, as he did on all these dark nights, enduring it until the wave passed over him and he could breathe freely again.
There were tears on his cheeks, like the brush of falling water, and he breathed slowly and stared at the sunset. A thousand years ago, he had looked down on the field of Astalor like this, from outside tents already overflowing with the wounded and dying, and seen the Shadow come out of the towers of Eyr, darkness folding across the sky until the only light of the field was the eerie glow of magelight and the flames that dragons raised. It had been just light enough to see his horsemen rushing towards the darkness though, the dun flanks of their horses gleaming golden under the flames in the sky, the riders crouched in their saddles, sabers raised. He had seen the way the Shadow suddenly took form in the darkness, a clawed and spiny horror as vast as a dragon, right in the path of the charging horsemen.
They had ridden right into the Shadow’s wrath, his brave riders, and Hal had felt his heart tear as the Shadow ripped the lead rider from his saddle and shredded him as the horses screamed with fear.
He had students now who had been to what remained of Astalor and seen the flowers growing on the battlefield, roses blooming out of old bones. Hal would never make that journey, not until time ground the mountains low and made the rivers run along new paths. He could not look on Astalor again.