A Slight Change of Direction

After spending a bit of time on another writing project, I have recently returned my attention to Paragon’s Call. Part of that effort has been evaluating the plot I have mapped out and determining if it will go in the direction I need.

I got that worked out and adjusted the plot line better to my liking, then returned to composition. I’m now up to a little over 63,000 words, with a half dozen chapters remaining. For scale, both book one Ohlen’s Arrow and book two Ohlen’s Bane are about 64,000 words each.

My plot adjustments have shortened the overall length of the novel by removing three chapters that didn’t add much to the book. I learned back in my screenwriting days that if a scene can be removed without altering the pace or plot, it doesn’t belong.

More importantly, my plot adjustments have changed the role of the antagonist in the book. Specifically, I added a new antagonist that will will play a bigger part in subsequent books.

Wait, what? Did I just indicate there will be more after Paragon’s Call?

The editing phase of a story’s lifecycle

In the life-cycle of Ohlen’s Arrow, I’m in the editing phase. I’ve hired an editor and we’ve been going through revisions one chapter at a time. I gave her the story as Word files, one per chapter. She then returns those Word files with track-changes turned on. I open up the Word file and place it next to my Scrivener screen. I review each suggested edit and make the changes in Scrivener as I go along.

At this point very few of the edits involve plot items, although I did rework a conversation my lead character has with two friends at the beginning of the story. This helps establish some key plot elements that didn’t quite fit later on in the story.

The bulk of this round of editing has been spent on sentence structure, grammar, and word choices. It’s like a musician being told how to hold their instrument. What I love about this phase of the “I’m writing a novel” process is it makes the finished product better. It also makes me a better writer.

When to stop plot expansion

My book, Ohlen’s Arrow, is now dwelling in a state of revision. I wrote the first draft and sent it out to several beta readers for feedback. After receiving that feedback, I spent two weeks revising the book and another week proofreading it.

The problem is that my brain won’t let it stay where it is. I keep coming up with ideas for plot expansion. Part of this results from realizing I’ve neglected certain foreshadowing opportunities within the book as well as links to the two books I have planned as sequels in what will probably turn into a trilogy.

I also realize that I mention certain plot elements within the story but don’t expand on them as much as I could. I’m sure sharp readers will finish the book and say, “Hey, what about that dagger you mentioned in chapter 3?” or “Why are the cru’gan so tribal and not more cooperative?”

Questions from readers like this are to a certain extent unavoidable. I can’t answer every possible question; it’s not feasible, and I don’t think the book would be very interesting if I did. Everyone needs a little mystery left over once the last page has been turned.

The challenge as an author is knowing when to stop. At what point do I allow the book to exist as it stands? When do I determine I’ve done enough?

If Ohlen’s Arrow becomes a New York Times best seller and gets a three-movie treatment from Peter Jackson, no doubt I’d walk away from the bank after cashing my royalty checks still harboring thoughts that it could use just a little more work.