The Lies breakthrough & Wren comments – Writing Update 2019 Week 50

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

The Lies – For 2 weeks I’ve been struggling with my zombie book 8, The Lies – trying to figure out how to cut it so it makes sense, goes faster and captures what I wanted to do originally.

Challenges standing in the way are the usuals, but in complex ways – repetition of past material, proliferation of deep tech explanations – plus something less problematic in previous books: low-stakes but high energy conflict.

The central story is Amo learning who he needs to kill, setting up book 9 and the climax. There’s a lot of backstory, told live in a way that I believe is pretty exciting. A detective story that Amo tags along for. I don’t think this is the problem, though it certainly needs trimming.

The problem is what’s happening around that story – Anna and Lara’s stories. They both face a series of conflicts in their own worlds. Anna has about three different coup moments as she fights for control of Istanbul. Lara bounces off Witzgenstein maybe three times as they rise toward climax.

The problem is, neither of these catch my interest much. We’re coming to the end. At the end of book 7 Anna basically conquered Istanbul. Lara and Amo basically dominated Witzgenstein. Now we have to have those fights again? It’s kind of boring, even though both stories are full of action. It’s not action we care about.

At this stage we want to see the stakes rising. Anna and Lara need to power up and get ready to play a real role.

So – for Anna I reduce to coup attempt to one chapter, over very rapidly, then pivot directly to a very relevant threat – the lepers. They get a proper introduction here. They are an increased stake.

With Lara, I’ll accelerate through the Witzgenstein stuff to the moment Lara is burning on the stake. Just cut right to it, as a spur for Lara to take her power back.

Reviews – I’ve been getting more reviews saying the books are slow! Some people thnk books 1-3 are slow. Others think the later books are slow. I believe they are probably all slow. When I finish book 9, I’ll probably go back and have another look at book 1! Crazy, but I am certainly learning with every pass I do.

Wren reviews – The same is true for Saint Justice. Despite multiple edits, I’m still getting the comments about goriness and super-powered Wren. Clearer reviews spell this out for me a little more, for which I’m grateful.

Torture – There are numerous instances where torture is grotesque. They were kind of throwaway moments in the writing, but they have clearly had a bad effect. Henry, Wren’s cult-member, has one eye removed. Abdul has his hearing destroyed by close-up gunshots. OK, both are horrible. In the Order, the Core are made up of extreme acolytes who have all had eyes, ears, etc removed. Also extreme. A tortured body had been skinned earlier.

So I change these. I don’t want to sicken people. It’s too graphic. I don’t lose anything to make the torture more conventional.

Superheroics – One instance was clarified for me, which has probably contributed to people complaining Wren is too invulnerable. In an escape, he gets shot in the thigh. A woman wrote in a review that her son was shot in the thigh and it shattered his femur. Completely incapacitating. Now, I thought I’d put something in there about the bullet being a ricochet, not full powerful, and therefore a flesh wound.

I checked. I did put that information – but only on reflection, several pages later. People could be forgiven for overlooking it. So I add it immediately. Wren is smart – he knows if gets hit by a bullet that doesn’t do tremendous damage, it had to be a ricochet. hopefully this will assuage some of it. Maybe I also need to reduce the beating Mason gives him.

Other changes – Other changes I made are to do with Mason’s descent into the white supremacist cult. I had several pages where the Alpha really gets to outline his ideology. It’s pretty horrible, really. Why am I giving voice to this stuff? Number 1, we all get it. So why go on about it? I cut those bits right down. To the same end, I reduced some of the racialized language. It’s a part of the book, it’s obviously real, but people don’t want to read it.

Also there were some of my usual ‘catch-up’ narrative summaries, explaining how all the pieces moved behind the scenes. Nobody cares. I cut them right back. The mechanics don’t matter. People can infer it.

So I’ve been busy! Hopefully zombie book 9 is more straightforward. I think it is. Still trying to close these edits out by 2020, then start fresh on the next slate of Wren thrillers.

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