On The Epic Rewrite Of Epicness, or Twittering For Progress

My last post (about donning The Suit), was an attempt to sort of reconcile the new job in my life with my writing and “life” (read into the air quotes what you will). It wasn’t intended as a whinge-post, but I suppose I couldn’t help a certain degree of whinge creeping in. This is because, no matter what I’m doing, I will always rather be writing. As someone famous (and therefore credible) once said, writing is the only thing that, when I’m doing it, I don’t feel as though I should be doing something else (or words to that effect). This post, then, is a companion piece to The Suit, and in it I intend to tell you about about what I’m writing at the moment.

The Epic Rewrite of Epicness (or #ERoE for those playing along on Twitter).

The #ERoE begins over a decade ago, when I first decided to start writing, or I should say, when I first took writing seriously as something people did. I began a story about an incredibly handsome assassin named Shade (get it?), who, along with a ragtag band of misfits (*cough* fellowship *cough*) set off to rescue a kidnapped princess. Ahem. Yes, that’s right. A princess. She was kidnapped. She needed rescuing and, as I couldn’t find a suitably affable Italian-American plumber with pipe access to the world I’d created, I sent my motley fellowsh- I mean group of heroes off to get the job done. To say that this book had no plot is akin to claiming that the sun is hot in terms of relative redundantivism. I don’t really want to talk about the problems with that particular MS here (it was over 150,000 words multiplied by some dozens of drafts long by the time it was bottom-drawer relegated). Ask me about it sometime, though. It’s actually quite hilarious how resolutely I did everything wrong with that MS! This blog post isn’t about that. It’s about what came after, which is to say, what is happening now.

Over a decade later (has it been that long?) the majority of which has been time spent studying my craft, and I began to wonder if there was something, anything in that first MS worth saving. After all, it was where it all began for me. It had to have something decent in it, right? So, I took the thing out of the bottom drawer. Actually, I didn’t. I could’t face it again, because now I know exactly how horrid it actually is. What I did was to take out the manuscript assessment I had done on the thing. In summary, here’s what it said. Too many PoV’s (what, 43? Too many?), a whole bunch of other criticisms, but a really interesting world and some good characters. Hmmm… I can work with that. After all, building a world takes time, often years, and here I had this actually quite interesting world, with a few good characters, but nothing at all of interest happening (well, there was the kidnapped princess…). Here is where the Epic Rewrite of Epicness begins.

First step – don’t even re-read the old manuscript. Bin it. It didn’t have a plot anyway.

Second step – have a look at the characters. The orcs? Gone. The elves? Gone. The dryads? Gone. I don’t even know what I was thinking, but there were some interesting people in there. The assassin who should have been the kingdom’s greatest defender, bound by duty and honour to protect the king who exiled him. The semi-presentient priestess-turned-last hope of her people, driven to form an alliance with a crumbling kingdom that could tear her own land apart in its death throes. An aged, battered warrior, longing for peace and a chance to claim a life for himself. A reluctant prince, enslaved by an ancient power far greater than kings or empresses. A child, stolen from her dying mother at birth, only to be raised a thief with a destiny far more horrible waiting for her in the future. Okay. These I can work with. These can form the beginnings of something.

Third step – have another look at the world. There are definitely some workable elements here. The warring clans, for instance, who once ruled the world but have since been relegated to fringe-dwelling outlaws. The Six Gods, worshipped equally by everyone, everywhere, with the exception of the southern Tribelands. The small collective of kingdoms caught between two immense, warring empires. The maps. I can definitely work with those.

Fourth step – strip everything back to almost nothing, and start again. Plan. Find some stories to tell in this world, with these people. This was actually easier than I thought it would be. I’ve been living with some of these characters for almost a decade, and a couple even longer than that. They have stories to tell. Interesting ones. Stories full of strife, and heartbreak, and betrayal, and great acts of heroism and cowardice. There’s pain here, but also some happiness, some love, and a fair bit of longing. There’s also plenty of injustice. So, I had to work out what these stories would be, and then find a way to weave them all together into some sort of a narrative. I had to come up with a plot and, I dare to hope, I have.

Fifth step – rewrite. There’s a reason I’m calling this the Epic Rewrite of Epicness. Actually, there are two. First, what I’m rewriting is an Epic fantasy. It’s even more epic than The Voyages of the Flying Dragon, which is pretty epic in and of itself. I’ll be very surprised if I can restrict Book One of this #ERoE to 150,000 words (the current target), but I’m not too worried about that (after the #ERoE will come the Epic Editing of Epicness – but that’s a ways off yet). Second, it is an epic rewrite. Usually, when I rewrite something, I’m working with a pretty solid base. I’m just trying to make something I’ve already written better. This time, though, I’m starting virtually from scratch. A few vaguely outlined characters. A hastily thrown together world. The barest premise of a plot. These are all I have to go with, so this rewrite isn’t about making something better, it’s about making something, anything, at all.

And how’s it going? Well, today is the start of week 3 of the #ERoE, and I’m already about half a week behind (curse my desire to have a couple of days off!), but I am loving this book. There’s plenty of action, the characters are coming alive, the world is shaping itself through their actions. In short – it’s going well. It’s still first draft material, but I’m not letting some dodgy sentences bog me down. I’ve set myself a pretty much impossible task – 10,000 words a week – 1,000 words every weekday and 5,000 words on weekends (which means I’m currently 5,000 words behind, if you do the maths), and I’ve boasted as such on Twitter (and now here). Why such a ridiculous goal, and why make it so very public? The reasons for that are twofold. One: I want (i.e. would absolutely love to have) a workable draft by the end of the year so I can begin the #EEoE in the new year. Two: I need to force myself to keep writing. I love writing. It seems odd I need to do anything to force myself to do it, but there’s always The Suit, draining… but there was enough of that in my last post. Suffice it to say, I’m hoping to put my proverbial money (the only sort of money writers have any familiarity with) where my mouth is (oh, I just realised its lunch time) and get this book done. It’s been a dozen years in the making, but I’m finally ready to make a start on it.

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