MOPNOWRIMO revisited (21/4/2012)

Back in February I set myself the goal of writing a hundred-thousand word novel within one month and then blogged about each day and how it went. Other projects have taken priority since then but over this last week and the next, I’m going over what I wrote back then and rewriting it. Hindsight and a refreshed pair of eyes combined, you see . . .

Anyhow, observations from the first week of rewriting:

There’s a prologue. I rather like it, but really, what was I thinking when my editor is acknowledged as the Devourer Of Prologues? Have decided to keep it in so he can ask for it to be cut and thus feel useful.

I have lost interest in Skyrim over the intervening couple of months. Main quest completed, tanking around in heavily enchanted dragon-plate armour, it’s become a bit of an exercise in finding enough shops where I can sell all the stuff I keep finding, and that’s a bit dull. So no Skyrim getting in the way this week. Apart from me talking about how it’s not getting in the way, obviously.

Day One:

This was a really dialogue heavy day and it’s all pretty bland stuff. Today’s scenes have a fair amount of recapping of the previous book in the series (this being the second of three), too much talking and about as much atmosphere as the inside of a synthetic duvet. In short, they’re a bit crap and if I read this aloud.

This section wasn’t nearly as grim as I thought it was at the time and was easily rewritten. The dialogue was too verbose and too stiff in places, but some simple cutting and straightforward editing appears to have sorted that out. One of the “difficulties” of the very first draft was that the relationships between some of the characters weren’t entirely clear to me at the start (in fact some relationships and indeed entire characters weren’t anticipated at all). Now I know how it’s all going to pan out at the end, sorting these relationships properly out at the start has been easier than I feared – more a case of cutting spurious dialogue and infodumps than anything else. Cutting is always easier :-)

Day Two:

Less talking, more fighting.

That day came easy and it didn’t need much work in the first rewrite either. I think It was mostly expanding the descriptive passages which were a bit terse in the fight and also changing the geography a little. One mistake I made when I wrote the first draft was not to make any kind of map either before or as I was going. That led to some slightly bizarre inconsistencies which are now being ironed out as I go. I’m also making a map this time. I still like the bit where I throw someone off a cliff.

Days Three, Four and Five:

This is about the point in the first draft where all that planning starts to fray at the edges. Ideas that looked fine in a two-page synopsis now appear dull and contrived when put into proper prose. The characters are mostly as they were intended, but one of them is developing more, ah, personality than expected and the main threat has turned out a bit crunchier that intended. This is all to the good, but has made one of the intended relationships quite different. At the same time, the lead character finds himself in a situation that wasn’t quite as I’d intended it at this point and a character I didn’t even know existed when I started looks like they might be making a significant part for themselves. So far none of this seems to derail the main storylines and merely weaves them in a different way.

I seem to have a gatecrasher.

Thought I’d got rid of yesterday’s intruder, but like a bad penny, he shows up again.

And that all turned out to be about right and to the good. The relationship between the principle protagonist and antagonist is much more ambiguous throughout than originally conceived and I think that panned out well in the end (now I know what the end was). My “gatecrasher” – I’m not entirely sure whether I meant the protagonist’s intended sidekick or the character I had never even concieved of until I needed someone to help him escape the overly-comptent antatagonist. Either way, those two characters ended up largely stealing the story in my view (along with the antagonist), which only goes to show that if you’re me, at least, you should just shut up and roll with whatever the muse throws onto the page. Sod plans.

I don’t notice the chapters that were cut from the plan at all and the unexpected character did end up very significant indeed. Most of the rewriting from this section has been easy enough although quite extensive in the dialogue and  the reactions of characters to one another as the relationships I now want are quite different from those I originally expected. It’s maybe worth noting that even despite quite substantial changes to the story and the people, a lot of words remain unchanged. Places still look as they did before, journeys are still from the same A to the same B using the same means of transport and so on. So although the atmosphere is quite different, the level of change isn’t as much as you might think. One pair of chapters did have to be gutted and rebuilt from scratch where one character was behaving oddly. This involved changing the progress of the story (the protagonist now goes from A to B via C instead of directly and gets dumped by his companion en route – so there is now a brief scene at location C and then a lot cut from what happens at B).

There’s also a new short chapter to foreshadow events that come much later. I knew this was probably a good idea when I did the first draft, apparently, judging by the note I appear to have left for myself…

Heading towards the close of act one now, which from memory was where I had a major falling out with my muse about several characters. I think the way things have now been changed will find the end of act one running much more smoothly, but we shall see. I also remember I sequence in which a character starts an avalanche in a totally ridiculous fashion and there is some very confusing geography. One of those things that seemed totally cool at the time but has left me queasy every time I think about it. I anticipate some cutting…

To be continued.


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