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Copyedits, procrastination and paranoia

This week’s post is a bit late, mostly because I seem to be in serious procrastination mode at the moment, at least when it comes to anything writing-related. Heck, I even hoovered under the bed on Saturday rather than knuckle down to it…

The thing is, I’ve had the copyedits back on The Prince of Lies, which I have to hand in by 4th August. Not only is this the last chance I get to fix any problems with the book before it goes to press, it’s also the last in the trilogy and hence the last time ever that I’ll work on Mal’s story—the story that I’ve obsessed over for the past eight years. Eight years! A thing like that is hard to say goodbye to, and I think that’s why I’m finding it so hard to get started.

Well, that and the fact that this was the hardest book for me to plot, so I’ve been a little scared that a re-read would reveal flaws that I don’t have time to fix. That’s where the paranoia comes in. Have I really done my best job on this book? Does it wrap up the trilogy in a satisfactory manner? What if fans of the first two hate it?

Yesterday I decided I just needed to trust my editor when he says the story is fine, and focus on fine-tuning the prose, so I made a PDF of the Word file (Angry Robot has a paper-free production workflow – no hard-copy galleys or page proofs) and put it onto my iPad for easier reading. I got two chapters done in my lunch break yesterday, so if I can fit in a few more chunks during the week I should be able to get the whole thing done before the deadline.

I’m not making any drastic changes: just a word or phrase here and there, the occasional line of dialogue amended to be more in-character. Things I would have caught on the previous draft if I hadn’t run up against earlier deadlines. After that there’ll be the dread moment of pressing “Send”, when the book leaves my hands for the last time and goes off for layout and printing. I’m excited at the prospect of sharing the completion of this story with you all and yeah, just a little bit scared!

The Prince of Lies final draft – done!

I know – I didn’t post here at all after the first week, but I was so focused on the draft itself, I didn’t have the time or energy. Usually I give myself two months for initial revisions (and that’s what’s specified in my contract) but this book was already running late and I didn’t have that luxury.

It was a gruelling process, trying to revise a substantial novel in a month, but I got it done, finally handing in the draft to my editor Marc on Tuesday 7th May. He may still want a few tweaks before it goes to the copyeditor, but it’s basically complete as far as I’m concerned. If I got hit by a bus next week, the book could still go out and I’d be happy at the result. Well, not the being dead or incapacitated part, but you know what I mean.

At first I was so relieved to have hit my deadline—and so mentally drained—that I was just glad to have it done and out the door. It wasn’t until a couple of days later that I started to feel a bit sad that I won’t be writing about Mal, Coby and friends again, at least not any time soon. Their story has come to (for me at least) a satisfying conclusion and I’m ready to move on to new things. In any case it’s not over yet; there’s copyedits to check and the book release itself to look forward to, and even sooner than that—the cover reveal! Watch my main blog for more news on that, very soon :)

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 34-38

…and an epilogue!

Yes, I finally finished the second draft of The Prince of Lies yesterday. I’m not going to say too much about it here, as I intend to post on my main blog and don’t want to repeat myself, so I’ll just say for the record that the last few chapters still had a few surprises in store for me. The biggest one was a revelation that put a new slant on events, so that will need foreshadowing in the final edit pass!

As a result of this new perspective I ended up discarding my intended Chapter 35 with its new scenes. It briefly looked like I would be down a chapter overall, then I read the remaining scenes and discovered just how fragmented they were – in my rush to get the story down on paper, I had jumped ahead to the bits I was most certain of, leaving massive gaps in the story flow. Hence I decided to split the final chapter into two so that I could add the missing scenes without it becoming horrendously long. I fear it may still be a bit rushed, but at least it isn’t a train wreck now!

Final word count: 123,488

Material discarded: 26,705 words

So at least I seem to be getting more efficient at writing early drafts! :)

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 26-33

Once again I’ve been too wrapped up in the process of writing to stop and blog about it – or more likely too annoyed by the slow rate of my progress to want to talk about it.

These past few chapters have been tricky, in that I had one side of the story pretty well nailed but the other was distinctly shaky (and mostly unwritten). There was thus a lot of new material required, and then I kept stopping and reshuffling the scenes to try and get the maximum dramatic impact out of the revelations – when you can see an event from both sides, the order of scenes becomes crucial if you want to build suspense. I’m not sure if I’ve nailed it yet, but it’s good enough for a first draft.

I’ve thus nearly completed the sequence of chapters before the finale, so I guess you could say I’ve just about finished Act Two – and Act Three is suitably short. Now to re-outline the last few chapters and try and bring this book to a satisfying conclusion!

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 21-25

Another week of slow progress, followed by another weekend of binge-editing! Most of the scenes in these next few chapters seem to be pretty solid, but I needed to fix the narrative flow by restructuring the chapters and adding an extra scene or transition here and there to make it into a coherent story.

Chapter 21 was quite hard work as I’d moved a major plot event from here to much earlier in the book, but bridging that gap gave me an opportunity to deal with the fallout from Chapter 20 instead of plunging directly into the next bit of plot. Chapters 22-25 have been rather easier, though the timeline that seemed entirely logical during the first draft turned out to be a complete mess. When you look at the sequence of events and you can’t quite get your own head around the passage of time, you can be sure the poor reader’s going to be totally lost! Hence a bit of shuffling and the insertion of a scene or two that isn’t vital to the plot per se but (I hope) results in a clearer picture of what’s going on.

In summary, the editing might not be going quite as fast as I’d like, but I’m much happier with the way the story is turning out :)

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 16-20

I haven’t blogged about this draft in a while because to be honest, I wasn’t making progress. I got stuck on Chapter 16 for ages, and it eventually became clear to me that I wasn’t happy with the narrative flow of the preceding chapters. I wrote some new scenes that ended up being a new Chapter 17, clarified the run-up to Chapter 16 and was finally able to work out what needed to go into 16 in order to move the story forward. That done, it was straightforward to edit Chapters 18-20 and complete Part One of the book! Admittedly Chapter 20 did give me a bit of trouble and I wasn’t able to edit the whole thing on Sunday as planned, but it’s one of those plot turning points that absolutely has to be right if the rest is going to work.

Now I’m moving onto Part Two, which takes place several years later. I’m going to try and do a chapter a day for the rest of the month, but I’m not sure how feasible that’s going to be. Not impossible, but I’ll have to spend practically the whole of every weekend on it as well as a fair chunk of each weekday. Still, I’m feeling less hopeless about hitting my end-of-January deadline than I did a week ago :)

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapters 10-15

Owing to my difficulty in typing, I haven’t felt motivated to blog about my editing progress for the past couple of days. The good news is that I’ve been making progress nontheless, and am actually a day ahead of schedule now!

These last six chapters have been hard work in some respects, as I’d moved scenes around and changed my mind drastically about how one storyline should wrap up. On the other hand most of the scenes (apart from the end of said storyline) were pretty good and just needed some gaps filling in. There were still times when it felt like wading through treacle, but I’m past the worst bits of Part One now. I should be able to get the remaining four chapters done before the year runs out, and move onto Part Two in January. That’s when I’ll really have my work cut out…

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapter 9

Unfortunately my writing pace has been somewhat hampered over the last 48 hours – not by Christmas but by a minor back injury that makes it very painful to sit upright. It happened on Christmas Day, a result of vigorous hoovering of the living-room carpet followed by much bending over to build my Playmobil castle. I thus have to type lying down, which is not easy!

However I’ve soldiered on, and just finished Chapter 9. It required more rewriting than expected, as I had an unplanned fight scene that didn’t work out quite as anticipated. Or rather, the net result was the same, but it required the intervention of another character whose own scenes then needed rewriting. I also increased the number of bad guys, which means that victory takes longer and is more complex (my Muse tends to think small in the first draft, hence the second draft involves a lot of beefing up of incidents).

Anyway, I’m now halfway through this action sequence, and hoping to complete Chapter 10 today as well. I’m not going to be able to get ahead of schedule this week, as was my original plan, but I’d like to at least stay on track…

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapter 8

Chapter 8 concludes the current revised section; the first scene is the remainder of the brought-forward incident, then three new scenes build on that. Am enjoying the little details that have arisen from this new timeline – I just wish my Muse would do this on the first draft!

This section has also been rather Mal-centric, so I’m looking forward to switching to a new PoV for the next couple of chapters. Time for Coby to show what’s she’s made of!

Prince of Lies, 2nd draft: Chapter 7

As I predicted, I was knackered after the AMA so my progress has been snail-like this weekend. I only finished this chapter at lunchtime on Sunday, which means that I’m now way, way behind for the week. Part of that is because I’m tired after a long, hectic year, and part is because I’m having to write new scenes. Restructuring the timeline means I have to add scenes featuring Mal and then make it all flow seamlessly together, which is always the hardest part for me. I’ve also decided to bring forward an important incident, which I hope won’t disrupt the plot later!

The biggest revelation of this chapter has been the opportunity to write a sex scene. I wasn’t expecting any in this book, and part of me worries it’s gratuitous, but on the other hand I’ve used sex scenes before to show character, and in this case I felt it was needed. Oh well, we’ll see what the beta-readers say…