Part V now reviewed and sent off to my readers (about whom more later), and while I keenly await their opinions on how it all comes together, I’m considering my approach to my first big review and rewrites. With these standalone books it has tended to be the case that I get a better sense of where I’m going, of what the characters are like and what they need to be like, as I go through, as a result of which it becomes sharper along the way. The end doesn’t need too much work, the front needs a lot to bring it all into line with the end. This time around one of the two central points of view has been causing me trouble the whole time, so the first couple of his chapters need more or less rewriting entirely.
Traditionally I’ve used six points of view in every book. Just seemed a good number to get the right amount of variety and options for covering the action without the whole thing becoming too diffuse. With The Heroes, as well as the six principals, I did some scenes that strung together quite a lot of additional points of view in one way or another – extras, you might say. The idea was to spread out the scale, give a feel of the whole battle developing, take brief looks at people on both sides and at different levels of the chain of command and flesh out some characters seen at a distance. On the whole they were pretty successful, I think. With Red Country I wanted to try something slightly different, and work with two central points of view plus an occasional third. By the time I’d written two parts that way, though, I was starting to think that was feeling a bit claustrophobic, and that even though I was aiming at a more stripped down, simple, focused style of story, I was missing a trick by not applying that extras approach to some sections of this book. So in the third, fourth, and fifth parts I did some major scenes in that style of rapid movement between minor players. Now I need to write a new sequence in that style to go in the second part, and rewrite a sequence that was previously from one point of view to be from many.
There are some plot points that need to be worked on – ideas I had later to make things work that need setting up (or setting up better) earlier on. A couple of new characters to slip in, a couple that can be removed, a couple that need mentioning here or there so they don’t come so much out of the blue, one that turned into a woman, you know. There are some thematic things that need building up, a certain slant to characters and conversation that it would make sense to take – often you don’t really know what a book’s about until you get to the end of it. There are some suggestions from my readers and editor that will need to be implemented. Then there is some general character work to do – oftentimes my first pass is a little bland, the dialogue and description doesn’t have enough personality in it, the people don’t come over powerfully enough. At least with the more central ones there needs to be some sense of their personality in every action and speech, ideally. So at this stage there will be lots of shrugs, frowns, and raises of the eyebrows, and a lot of characters who talk, well, kinda like I do. Hopefully most of those can be replaced with something more inventive that tells you something of the character in question. That’s particularly important for the characters that have appeared in the previous books, of whom there are a few this time around. They need to feel consistent and vivid, and as a result I probably need to do a read through of the First Law and Best Served Cold. I wonder what I’ll make of them this time around? But first things first, I need to read what I’ve got and get a feel for how good/bad certain parts of it are. And to collate all my mess of notes and plans and see if there are any nuggets hidden in there I forgot to make use of. Hopefully I can get through most of this stuff by the end of May or before, at which point I’ll hopefully have a coherent, consistent first draft (at least by my standards). A sigh of relief will be breathed.
Then the work of editing can begin, which will include broad points from my editor plus a detailed markup, passes through to get as much personality into the points of view as possible, to fine tune the setting, to fine tune the language, then a copyedit, then a proof read, and we’ll be thinking about the cover and planning the marketing and publicity, and, and, and…