April 13, 2013

How I Finished the Book: Everything Must Go!

My manuscript almost looked like this.
You just need to add lines crossing out 80% of the page.

Image (c) iStock
BOOK IS DONE!

83,236 words
386 pages

Amazing, crazy things can happen when you're nearing a deadline. When I started writing The Name and the Key, I never had an entirely clear vision of the book or its plot, and I've documented this struggle for the past two years. 

But there were several things I did intend for the book right from the beginning. The book was an enormous concept and I seriously thought I'd be popping out a novel that would be 500-600 pages. 

But when you're running out of time, and when you're trying to submit solid, clean work, you'll be amazed at what goes on the chopping block. The book I turned in has such surprising plot changes to it that it honestly doesn't resemble anything I promised to friends and family whenever I talked about it. 

Which means when everyone gets around to reading it, there are definitely some "whhhhooooa"s in store you. 

In a lot of my writing, I tend to drop clues or references that will later be relevant to future events. This made up the bulk of my earlier chapters. When you don't have the time to wrap up all of those loose ends, they become the first things to go. 

Here's what got chopped:
  • Five entire chapters deleted (!!!!)
  • Beauty and the Beast references and influences cut
  • All fairy tales and storytelling scenes cut
  • Highgate cut; referenced in one paragraph only
  • Finale with Lily and Dead Mother cut
  • Thomas Marxham character arc with Laney deleted
  • Ballroom assault plots cut--no ballroom scenes at all
  • Major plot points and timelines cut
  • Lily burning a hole through "reality" and its consequences
  • Uncle Zurca teaching Lily magic
  • A really on-the-nose reference to the book title has been cut, yay!
  • There was going to be a whole mystery and build-up to Lily finding out about Andresh's magic and how to use it--that's gone. Circumstances force Andresh to flat-out confess everything, including why he went on the Walk 
  • No clear resolution for Kale, Zurca, Laney, and Viollca 
  • And remember these cuts? (Early deletions)
Here's what bloomed out of nowhere:
  • New minor characters: Madame Zimina, a fortune teller, and her young son Pesha 
  • A heavy romance element: I had always intended for Lily and Andresh to deny their sexual attraction until the very end. But, I said screw it, everybody knows they like each other. So now they jump each other halfway into the book, and Lily initiates most of it. But because the story is still based on a historical time period, I did observe the rules of propriety and didn't have the characters do things that would normally ruin their lives. I've never written romance before, so I'm terrified that it'll be too corny or unrealistic. The dialogue is quite emotional at times.  
  • Lily personality tweak: I really liked Lily, but consistent complaints from friends and mentors essentially said, "She really needs to get a grip and calm down." I tried to make her strong but she came off snarky; and when I tried to make her concerned for other characters, she came off fussy. So what did I do? I deleted almost all of her internal dialogue, tried to make her more affectionate and giving, and I tried to make her more accepting of things and not ask too many questions. 
  • Race and Culture: I hinted at the Roma's persecution and unfair treatment a lot more frequently; I also did it to remind readers that most of my characters are not white (although yes, Caucasian Roma do exist). I love my artwork of Andresh, but his skin color is frequently changed. Despite me informing artists that he has reddish-brown skin, he's been portrayed in a variety of colors. He is beautiful in every single depiction, and I don't think the artists purposely tried to change him. Human beings picture things as they know them--they draw on personal experience and imagine things based on what they're familiar with. If I didn't make it more obvious that my characters were of different races, they would default to what readers commonly expect in fantasy--the stereotypical white medieval noble lord. 
  • Naked time! I knew Andresh would have to get naked because of his magic, but Lily gets naked, too, for a grand old Naked Time finale. Lily and Laney also give Andresh a bath (long story) which I included just to mess with Laney and her crush on Andresh. 
  • Lily's magic: There's a very simple reason as to why Lily can do what she can do. She's not chosen or anything like that; she just has a genetic disposition toward magic. Which explains why Lily and Laney are raised as "outsiders." Also, Lily ends up showing she has even more power than Andresh because I have her doing something really crazy (and new!) at the end of the book, which kind of makes her badass.
  • Larger sense of geography: The main settings are Rookwood and Mariner, but other locations are frequently referenced. So now we have Silva (the capital); Ingelore, the port city of Geldenwald; the Verda foothills that lead into the city of Sorra; and Capua Cora, a town developed from the enormous ruins of an old abbey. I am so proud of Capua Cora that I'm going to have to use it as a setting again somehow.  
Even some events in the book that I've kept (Lily sending Uncle Zurca supplies, for example) now have a completely different reason for them occurring. 

After all that, now what?
  • When I finished the book, it concluded the major arc between Lily and Andresh. That felt like the book's natural ending, but I left many, many things open and unanswered. I didn't want it to be like Lord of the Rings and have seven different endings so we know what happens to all the other characters, but I think the reader will probably want a little more than what I gave them. Right after I sent the manuscript to my mentors, of course, I decided that I should probably write an epilogue. 
  • The book will have to be proofread again. I cannot tell you how many hours it took me to read through the whole thing to clean it up, only to spot errors in it right after I turned it in. BLEHH!
  • Going to work on The Step and the Walk.
  • Going to research agents to query. This is the part of the game that terrifies me. 
  • Going to develop a graphic novel series that I may self-publish. Came up with the plot a few weeks ago. 
In a follow-up blogpost, I'll tell you more about the book and its story--you know, the part where I give you a proper elevator pitch/back of the book blurb and other fun things such as that. Huzzah!