Chris Wren series fixes pt. 4 – 2020 Writing Week 30.5

Mike Grist Weekly Writing Update, Writing Leave a Comment

More fixes to Chris Wren book 1, Saint Justice, have been coming to me and getting implemented over the weekend. Here’s the story so far:

Part 1 – The questionnaire answers on Chris Wren readthrough, and my responses – Mostly people mentioned lack of engagement, the sickness of book 2, Wren was unlikeable, and cost. I vowed to do better.

Part 2 – I got feedback from Su and boughtt he K-lytics report. Here I thought hard about my book titles and blurbs, and changed them all. I also started thinking about streamlining book 1.

Part 3 – More feedback from Su and my own thoughts. I wrote several characters out of the book, several scenes got shrunk, and flashbacks start getting moved.

Part 4 – now.

So here’s what I’ve done:

  • Taken out the flashbacks. I added these in response to some people saying Wren was unsympathetic. Adding flashbacks to him meeting his wife and having happy times seemed a route to fix this, but I’m not happy with it. It slows the pace down and disturbs the narrative, and does nothing for Wren in the present. How to fix that?
  • I make him nicer, more reasonable. For example, he goes hard at a church administrator who doesn’t help him fast enough. But she’s not the enemy. So now he goes softer.
  • Throughout I try to reduce the uber-authoritative tone. Wren speaking for other people, Wren guessing things then acting like those guesses are established facts. I’ve heard that pushes the reader out of the story. So now I try to present the evidence more, then have Wren hi the conclusion. Less leaping, more legwork. One example is when he goes to the warehouse. Now Wren shoots down a Saint, finds an executed Viking, and puts the pieces together after a further search. Makes more sense.
  • Other tinkers here and there, streamlining stuff.
  • A different epilog. This may be pretty major. I’ve become aware I ended the book very happy-clappy. Things begin, things end – those were the exact words. Super low stakes. Nice chitchat with Alli. When in truth he’s still estranged from his family, just discovered the Apex may be real, and the CIA are still hunting him. So – I cut the long Alli chat. Bring in Dr. Ferat, and let him say Wren needs to deal withthe past, or he’ll never be any good to his family. And here’s a clue to the Apex. It links the Saints to the villains of the next book, the Blue Fairy. It sends Wren roaring off into the sunset right at the end, filled with rage and purpose for book 2 – No Mercy.

I think this new ending may make a difference to readthrough. Cliffhangers work. People ‘hate’ them, but they also love them – especially if the major plot line is closed, and the next book is available. I just got started mentioning the Apex. Now he’s coming more into the picture. The book ends on a high.

Now I need to bring that sense of threat and excitement through to book 2. Currently there is no link to the Apex. A few lines here and there will add that in. Also a cliffhanger of some kind at the end of book 2 will be good. Books 3 and 4 have cliffhangers already.


I got a negative review on book 1 this morning, pretty interesting. The guy gave 1 star, said he got to 40% and gave up because it was directionless and there were too many cults.

At first I think – what? Then I realize, we’ve got hints of the Pyramid, and the Foundation, and the Saints, then right around 40% we’ve got all the weird vampire cult stuff with Teddy and Cheryl. It’s a lot to take in. It’s weight without forward momentum.

So I also trimmed all this pretty deeply, almost a whole chapter gone of background on Teddy and Cheryl. The book is faster and leaner than ever. Down to 73,000 words from a high of 87,000. I don’t know Wren if comes across as likeable, but I know he’s nicer than before.

Now to wait for further feedback on this current cut. Look at book 2, maybe. Also write book 5!!

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