The importance of being ruthless

I’m currently in the process of re-writing the first book in the Diary of the Wolf series. Some might say “that was out two years ago… move on and let it go,” but this all comes as part of a new attitude to writing. I’ve probably addressed it in a post below, but I’ve recently been inspired to approach my writing in a more professional manner. I’ve looked at a lot of careers and my dreams keep coming back to writing.

As part of a five book series, Diary of the Wolf needs to be on a par with what follows. Some would argue it needs to be better than all but the last book, after all it’s the book that has to hook in readers. With this in mind, I began going through the book chapter by chapter.

For some time I knew the first chapter was weak. It lacked the magic to grab the reader. I was already in the process of writing a prologue, in an attempt to show Ciaran Connolly’s personality before he becomes the wolf, so I thought this might be the solution. The prologue draft was finished and, in hindsight, it was poor and too different from the book. It focused heavily on a character, Roisin, who Ciaran had a crush on but would never appear in the rest of the books. She messed with his head, but that was years ago and as the wolf he was over it. The prologue may appear as a blog post sometime, to add some more insight to Ciaran, for those who want to read it, but it was not the solution to my problem (and thankfully my favourite proof reader told me so!)

I set aside ideas of a prologue as a bandage (though there’s now one for another purpose ;) .) The first chapter had to stand up to scrutiny. I re-read it and realised it was very poor. The pacing was off and there were so many unnecessary structures. Originally I thought it would be a good idea to start the book in the middle of a hunt. Everyone loves action, right? But then I had to inject substance into the chapter… which led to a time change and then another time change and then it all became horribly messy. Here’s where the ruthlessness comes in, because for far too long I was precious about this concept, but objectively it had to go.

Two days were spent on the chapter one re-write and much of it needed to be ripped out. Originally I tried to incorporate some of the Roisin prologue content, but it made the chapter bloated and added little. Again, time to be ruthless. What did Roisin add? Well, I argued with myself that it added a glimpse at a younger Ciaran, but the reader doesn’t know the new Ciaran at this stage, so it makes no difference. Cut! Although, a certain about of Roisin content does now appear in chapter 8, because I feel it’s an appropriate time to introduce more background, but maybe even that will be cut when I tackle chapter 8 properly.

I’m bracing myself and the ruthlessness for future chapters. Diary of the Wolf comes in at over 60,000 words, yet there are only 15 chapters. In contrast, The Bastion of Beleaguered Brothers is expected to come in at just over 50,000 words with 25 chapters planned. While I didn’t notice at the time, those wolf chapters are very long. It’s much easier to re-write a chapter than to split it into new ones, as all of the chapter have their natural beginnings and ends. There’s no rule that a chapter needs to be a certain length, but in an age of quick dip commuting reads, I’d prefer to have snappy chapters. This is an issue that’ll have to be address as I go; there’s no point drawing up new divisions when the contents are still in flux. One possibility could be ruthless editing resulting in a lower wordcount, though the current trend is more re-write than straight delete.

This objectivity could be attributed to time or a change in attitude. Honestly, I don’t know which it is, or if both were required. I know for The Bastion of Beleaguered Brothers, I’m far more critical as I write. The process is slower (and cost me my Nanowrimo win,) but I feel it’s a good indicator of where my head is at.

FrankThe importance of being ruthless

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