I’m tempted to caveat the title with “(for the second time)” as I actually “finished” the sequel to my first book almost two and a half years ago. I wasn’t completely happy with it and decided to rework about a third of what I’d written, as well as expand the story in other ways. But, I got a little stuck. Balancing life and moonlighting as an author is pretty tough under normal circumstances, but I’ve also been pretty unhealthy mentally for the better part of two years.
This post will not be about that. I should and will probably write about it at some point. All I will say is that I am working on it with people I trust and am feeling way better about myself. I’ve reclaimed my passions and the iron-spined resolve it takes to finish something, and promised myself to finish this book, titled The Edge of Twilight, this week.
So I did.
And I’m pretty happy with it now. I actually had the idea for this story first, before the Tournament of Heroes was even a consideration. I knew how I wanted it to end, and I knew what happened in the middle of the story, but I didn’t know how to start it.
When I tried, I wrote an entirely different novel. Which worked out well, but I was always looking forward to telling this particular story. The problem was, I didn’t really have a story so much as a few cool scenes I wanted to write. Writing the Tournament of Heroes was a mostly linear process; that is, I wrote one chapter af the other until it was finished.
But in writing The Edge of Twilight, I went ahead and wrote down those scenes that had been living in my head for the last eight years. The trick became tying them all together. There is a phrase I suspect every writer knows about “killing your darlings.” I don’t think I ended up killing any of them this time, but I did subject a few of them to gamma radiation to morph them into something more cohesive.
That was my real problem with the first draft. It had some good things going on it it. Some neat characters, decent action, interesting settings. But after reading through it several times the story felt like “and then this happened, and then this happened….then this happened.” Lots of things happened, but they did so pretty independently from one another. There was no real cohesion.
So one of my goals was to go back through all of these scenes and ways to lace them all together. Ryan would do something or get a thing and then it was never mentioned again. He should at the very least remember the ordeals he goes through, but it would be better if those same ordeals had consequences in future chapters. Having finished this draft, I feel like I’ve done that for this book. More importantly, I was able to tie some threads in this book to the previous one, and have left other threads so I can tie into them in the next one. Big plans are in motion, and I’m keen to execute it in a statisfying way for the reader. I give lots of little details in places that are meant to help set the scene, but sometimes, these seemingly pointless details actually mean something later in the book…or will mean something in a future book. These sorts of things excite me as a reader, and are incredibly fun to plan as a writer. Planting these little seed-details motivates me to keep moving on these books.
One of the more interesting things about this book was the “real world” portion of it. I have big plans for how I want the “dream realm” stuff to go, but the “real world” stuff I let happen organically. Strangely, it just seems to work. In Edge of Twilight, we explore Ryan’s relationship with his brother, as well as Ryan’s ongoing conflict with his feelings. I like Ryan, and I want my readers to like him too, but it’s also important for me to make sure he’s not perfect. Jealousy and pride are unbecoming traits, but they are very human emotions. I won’t say what, but one of the last “Real World” scenes I wrote has some of my favorite Ryan-introspection and it was done completely on a whim. I can’t wait to see how readers react to it to know if it truly works or not.
Another one of my important goals for this draft was to expand on Ryan’s relationship with Rachel. I haven’t been very fair to the princess, and had written her in a way that relegated her to less-than-side-character status. I had considered giving her “co-star” status in this story, but that would have been such a huge rewrite, I was afraid of completely wrecking the story that already existed. Rachel has a big part to play eventually, but I can’t just bring her in to do so when it’s convenient; she needs as much agency as Trent and Sam and Jess. In the original draft of this novel, a spider that runs a circus had more emotional weight on the story than she did. She still isn’t very present in this book, but I have given her room to grow into something more than a vapid macguffin. I am not totally sure how to connect all the dots of now-Rachel to end-Rachel, but I am much more excited to figure it out now.
I have yet to go through this draft. I’m going to let it sit for a few days and then read it with a fresh and open mind. I expect to find a few things I am not happy with, but I feel about a hundred times more confident in this draft of Edge. I’m not only content enough to show it to other people, I’m eager to get their feedback. My plan at present is to do just that with a handful of beta readers and prepare a final draft by the end of November.
I just need to keep the writing forge-fires hot. The end is in sight! Stay tuned for updates.