It has not been a big week in writing fresh words!!
Wren 6 quagmire
I’ve been struggling a little with Wren book 6. I’ve got a talky, kind of slow beginning which I like to a point. It takes stock of where we were at the end of book 5, dealing with fallout, but maybe it is slow, there is little danger, and hmm.
I also have a more actiony beginning, which I also like, but it jumps past all the character work that seems pretty essential – Wren has to deal with the chaos at the end of book 5. If I just skip all that, it’ll feel extremely thin.
I like both beginnings. Maybe I will use both at some point or other. I could open with fast action, then kind of flashback to getting there. Or I could speed through the talkiness of the slow start, pump it up with bridging conflict, then jump to my action opener.
Not sure. So I either lost words down to 6,000, or am still at around 12,000. Tricky. Important. An ongoing series dealing with this difficult psychological operation is, uh, difficult. I wouldn’t have it any other way, though 😉
New Wren 3 cover
I am loving working with this new artist. I gave the concept for this cover, and he has produced exactly what I had envisaged. Amazing. Here it is:
Gorgeous. Love the blue light in the room matching the blue of the title. Love the snow. Just everything about it. It sits really nice alongside the first 2. Also allowed for the box set to be made:
Also fantastic. Very pro-looking – love the guy running on each spine.
Now book 4 is in the works!
Wren 1 – Saint Justice – rewrite
Most interesting to me right now (cos I just got done doing it) is the mini rewrite of Saint Justice I’ve done. I got the idea last night, fuelled by thinking about readthrough.
My readthrough is around 30%. Not wonderful. Upwards of 50% would be way better. I want loads of people anxious for the next book in the series. Champing at the bit. To get there, I gotta feed more people through to book 2. Once they’ve read book 2, I feel like they’re in.
So, what are the challenges of book 1 for readthrough? I already removed the swearing, the most extreme violence, the bleak feel, the dour hero (he’s funnier now), and that has certainly helped. Previously I’ve removed the multiple viewpoints, problems with the villain’s race, unkilled several characters and written out/combined several others to speed things up.
So what remains? Probably it is the opening, and the overweening emphasis on race, and the didactic feel.
I read back on the manuscript assessment I had done by a pro editor over a year ago, and see she suggested many of the above things that I ended up doing – some immediately, some more gradually. What remains to tackle is the focus on race.
Here’s the thing. The whole book is about race. I don’t need to hammer that issue over the head. I don’t need to mention often that Wren is half-black/brown. I don’t need to paint Midwest whites as rednecks. I shouldn’t do these things. I didn’t really want to do these things.
But I kind of did 🙁 . I saw that last night on re-reading the intro. Why is Wren going into the biker bar? Well, to pick a fight. It’s OK though, they’re racists…
But it’s not really OK, is it? It’s not enough. I thought about Jack Reacher. He’s alway going into biker bars, and we’re right there with him. How often does he go in just looking to pick a fight cos it’ll make him feel good?
So why would Wren do it? He wouldn’t.
This proved actually easy to remedy. He kind of is looking for a fight – but it’s more to see justice done. That’s his addiction. So we say the bikers are heavily suspected of kidnapping several hitchhikers. Now Wren’s going in to ask some questions.
When they react strongly to the questions, we know they’re bad dudes. They need to be taken out. I think it puts us more on Wren’s side. And it adds up when, later on, we see they’re not just kidnapping locally and on a small scale, but nationally on a massive scale.
It works. It also allows me to push race issues into the background. The bikers are not just deplorable because they’re passively racist, but because they’re actively committing heinous crimes. I think I’ll pull more readers along. Wren’s race is barely hinted at. It won’t be focused on again until late in the book, and then not massively.
This is better. This is what that editor told me. Avoid didacticism. I agree. The best story has its morals and values so embedded you don’t notice them. It’s not propaganda, it’s not beating you over the head. It’s subtle. Maybe you could ignore it if you prefer, and still enjoy the story.
Yes. This does the double duty of adding heat and stakes to the story right from the off. It’s got me reflecting further on Wren book 6. What are the immediate stakes, if Wren is just licking his wounds for a few chapters?
Difficult. How to thread that needle? Threat, but deal with the weight of changes. Maybe open with action and run a quick flashback. Maybe.
By next week
By next week I hope to clear this Wren 6 logjam and make some real progress, 20,000 words would be great.
Also get book cover 4 done. That’s on the artist, though.
Oh, one further bit of admin I did was update my first 3 audiobooks with the new covers, new titles, and corresponding new audio files. Good stuff. I don’t make much on audio. I hope these new covers shift the needle.