Since writing the last few pages of my third book, Ancients & Death, I’ve been spending the past few weeks reading through the book cover to cover, so to speak, to get a feel of the overall flow, structure and plot. As I expected, there are some significant problems that will need to be addressed, but what I was surprised by was, in some places, the utter lack of consistency between chapters.
I suppose I shouldn’t be taken aback, really, because it took me a significantly long time to write this book, compared to the previous two. Where I wrote the first book, Consolation, in less than five months, and the second, Exile, took around seven, this is the first time I took well over a year to complete a draft.
Ultimately, I’m proud of the manuscript … but there is a lesson to be learned here.
And it shows. Because of my depression, sabbatical and other interferences, I wasn’t able to consistently write this book every day, every week, or even every month. There were very long periods where I ignored its progress entirely, focusing instead on, in some cases, my own survival. And the result is that, by the time I came back to the book, I had almost forgotten what had happened previously.
Some things are small, and easily corrected: a character who started out as a king turned into a greatlord partway through, and fixing it is more or less a matter of search and replace. Other issues are greater though; for example, a character might have an important revelation in chapter five, only to have exactly the same idea ten chapters later. This will be harder, because I will need to identify these places, highlight them, and decide which one to keep and which to rewrite.
There is also an issue with timing in the plot. This book takes place over nearly ten years of time, and the passage of this time isn’t always clear. It’s important that the time passes as it does, but I also need to reconcile this with a disease that spreads insanely fast. Why isn’t the whole world destroyed in the time that passes? These are things to muse on.
Ultimately, I’m proud of the manuscript. I think it’s one of the best I’ve written so far, and the parts with Elven are, to me, particularly gripping. But there is a lesson to be learned here, because I’ve set myself up for a great deal of work: don’t ever write a book over the course of two years. Do it faster. Stephen King recommends a month. I don’t think that’s quite realistic, but don’t abandon it for great periods of time—your work will suffer as a result.