Nick finished narrating Wren 2 MONSTERS on Saturday, after a pell-mell race through the last week of Feb to get it done. His performance was stellar – incredible intensity from Wren, great accents – I just loved it.
And so we turn immediately to Wren 3, REPARATION.
I blitzed early edits on Sunday so he’d have something to record today, and ended up going to bed feeling a little down about the whole thing.
I found problems. It’s a weird thing to find problems in such recent writing. Actually I finished Reparation 6 months ago now (I haven’t had a launch in 5 months!), and I had thought it was pretty awesome.
So what problems? Over-explaining is the big one. I can split this into two parts.
- Transitioning. I’ve become aware that I over-write the transition from initial Wren strike to the major plot thread of the book. I break it into tiny gradations. I have Wren mull his options back and forth. I suppose this is an artefact of the plotting process – as I’m largely pantsing these books, I’m figuring out where to go next.
But Wren doesn’t need that time. He doesn’t need to think too hard about his next step. He knows what the right thing to do is fast, and does it. It’s on me to trim away the uncertain, feeling the way sections, so Wren comes through as confident and in command.
We saw this in Book 1 – Wren went into the biker bar, no messing around and kicked butt (and got his butt kicked). Then there were a lot of floaty chapters where he walked to a gas station, went to see Eustace, got a ride into town, had a confrontation with a Mormon, had a confrontation with a receptionist, stretching things out.
No need. Wren is perfectly capable of getting a ride into town. It doesn’t need explanation. It’s enough to say – ‘Wren went to Eustace’s house’. Basically, that is what it now says.
Also there was a lot of reorienting his motivation- he wanted to get beat up, then he wanted to bring Eustace in, then he wanted to shake the fog, then he wanted to go see the warehouse. Now it’s cleaner and sharper – he wants to break these guys from the start. He already knows they’re bad. Eustace and the warehouse are just vectors he takes to achieve the break.
In Book 2 it’s similar – Wren dives straight into taking on the guys in the fake town, then there’s a good chunk of thinking, some messing around with him getting on a plane, etc. But Wren can just get on a plane. He’s an adult. We don’t need the logistics. I cut it all back. ‘Wren took a plane’.
Book 3 this lag comes after he deals with the Pinocchios in the depot. At Pythagoras’ place, I had him bounce back and forth on what comes next – what to do, where to go, who to blame, how to feel. I spent many paragraphs on how he hacked the guy’s WiFi. But this is Wren. We can just say – ‘He hacked his WiFi.’ It’s no biggie.
- Secondly, Babble. This could be techno- or emotional babble. Like with the WiFi thing above, I can over-explain. Also with emotions, I sometimes hit the nail on the head repeatedly. It must be tiresome to read. Folks want forward momentum and instead they get mired in the moment.
Cutting through some of that wore me out. But – it does seem the worst of this happens at the transition. In latter edits I’m not seeing it as much. The story gets crisp and fast, and that is really encouraging – so I’m feeling buoyed today.
What about Book 4?
I’m writing really slowly. Six months since I finished Book 3, I should have written two books by now – but I’ve been editing the zombie books, then this narration, and editing the Wrens. Still, I am 20,000 words in. A quarter.
With regard to the issues above, I have already caught some of them as I write – which is also heartening. As ever, it happens in the transition – I over-explain how Wren gets from here to here. In its place I just put a line- ‘Wren went here’. Sometimes you do need to spell that out – when it’s unusual or hard to achieve. Other times you just get in a car and drive.
Repetition and explanation I think I already nailed. It’s a lesson to make sure I go back over the ‘figuring out’ stage and iron it flat.
I went back to the old covers! Pretty much, anyway. On Reacher books, the figure isn’t running, and I like that. The author name is big, and I like that. Also – to have a guy running on my covers looks weird – he’s running into the wilderness. Toward what? If the backdrop is a city, it makes more sense. For me, it never is.
I changed a few things still – darker, zoomed in, equal font weight on my name, a little less text overall. I’m pleased, and the books are clearly branded.