9/2019 writing update

So, the September update comes with a few days of delay caused by a grouping-up of posts of which some got a higher priority. Anyway, there’s progress, so let’s get into it.

As I said in the previous update, I entered the second beta stage and got some feedback which is now around 85% done for the first reader and some 60%-ish for the second on the betareader.io site as well as the mentioned pro-feedback I won and something from the fourth reader via email.

At the beginning of September, I was on roughly 10k words of new or adjusted passages – which now grew to almost 20k. Of course, there will be cuts, which are roughly 1,5x as numerous (some passages are direct replacements, some are ‘condensed’, and there are outright cuts).

Now, my work on processing the feedback is not really systematic from beginning to the end – all the readers have their opinions and they don’t always match (I’ve shared something about processing beta feedback in mid-September) – and if it’s a major issue, there’s a lot for me to think about so I can get to the root of the underlying problem instead of just treating the symptoms.

So, I often first fix the small things – overcomplicated or poorly flowing sentences/paragraphs, lack of clarity or abundance of dialogue tags in discussions, typos.

Then, the second category are changes that require more work but don’t impact the overall story that much – rewriting scenes to show more instead of just telling or adjusting them to remove head-hopping. In those cases, the core remains the same even if the scene goes through a major rewrite.

The third stage (effort-wise) is adding new scenes that add some detail I’ve missed, show more about characters and/or the setting and expand on what was there already. Those were usually short (less than 500 words) and built on the base I already had even if the scenes were brand new.

And then there’s the parts that require the most effort: scenes that have issues in several aspects and are prety much ‘back to the drawing board’, so to say. Those are rewrites of whole chapters that face several changes at once, such as: cuts, PoV clarity (anti-head-hopping) changes, adding suspension or character progression, showing instead of telling, and maybe more. Reworking a chapter can easily take me over two hours, depending on how severe the edits might be.

That’s the hardest level?

Hell, nope.

A few days ago, I was thinking about the feedback I received so far in a wider spectrum, taking it as a whole instead of case-after-case. And I got to an idea I already had a few times, despised it for a while each time, and went for it each time anyway: dropping a major section (several chapters) for the better of the story.

It’s nothing new for me: I dropped a lot of ideas in concept stages and even several chunks of stuff in drafting stages. As I said a few times, I started at almost 240k words. In the sixth draft (the files my betas have), I am at 180k despite several additions. Considering the minor cuts, the deleted content is approaching 100k already just for the first book – and I already cut another 60k from #2 even though most of it was just working on the text and not as much really deleting scenes.

Now, the changes I am considering would lead to cuts that could be anywhere between 10k and 30k. The issue I face is the collateral damage – there are several moments that are related to those scenes and I’d need to decide which of them to cut as well and which to rework. Some of them are nudges to character development that’d need to get a new source of the ‘poke’.

It might be another major setback – easily a month… or three. But then, if I am 20 or 25 months later than my original, clueless guesstimate was, what’s the difference? I guess if I give this a good thinking through and come to a decision quickly, I might be on track for Spring 2020 release of #1, but the changes would warrant the need for yet another beta stage which I don’t dare to guess how long might take (though I should count with two or three months at least).

Now, I’ll get to another aspect of it: dropping a major part is something I don’t like because it means something I created is not working as I hoped. Yet I still do it for one reason: if I, as the author, doubt the purpose of a chapter(s), then it’s likely they’re weak. Thus, the decision is not as much as ‘should I cut it?’ but rather whether there’s a chance for reworking it instead of cutting.

So those are the writing-based challenges I am facing these days. Thanks for reading and feel free to comment with your insights or questions.

See you next time!

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