Time for a new weekly writer’s roundup of my works-in-progress and those ready to read!
This week proved to be a change of pace compared to the last, where I finished chapter fourteen and the climax of Vivian’s Last Cigarette. Instead of swinging into a fifteenth chapter, I decided to capitalize on an idea I had to rewrite a supporting antagonist in the story while it was still fresh in my mind. The character only appears in chapters one, thirteen and fourteen, so it wasn’t a book-wide sweep of editing. However, it was involved.
Altogether, that work increased the total word-count by around a thousand to reach fifty five thousand words in total. As with any editing, it felt like slow progress. I had to remind myself that this work wasn’t about adding words, but replacing them. About improving specific sections and by extension, the supporting text that was untouched.
One aspect of the edit was recasting the character as a different gender, but the job entailed a lot more than a simple shifting of pronouns. Even with her core personality the same, Cori’s relationship between herself and the lead antagonist changed from “loyal best friend and practical lieutenant” to “lover and co-conspirator”… obviously a substantial rewrite. That carried over to the dynamic between herself and the other henchmen too, albeit in different ways. Yet in reviewing the alterations, I’m pleased. The changes had the effect I wanted, and my gang of human-supremacists became a lot more varied and vibrant with her catalytic presence.
Cori is just a lot more interesting after the rewrite. Transitioning from a bland second-in-command, she gained an air of mystery and level of threat in the new version that wasn’t there before. In particular, I’ve enjoyed shedding light on the crafty and tactical parts of her personality. It contrasts well with the unhinged and charismatic nature of the lead antagonist, Adam.
In writing the above changes for Cori, I also did a significant rewrite of chapter one in general. The original version of the story’s opener was crafted when I thought Vivian’s Last Cigarette was going to be a short story or novelette. At that point in time, the trio of antagonists weren’t written to appear beyond that one scene. They weren’t even named. It was only after I decided to my expand the scope of the tale in mid-August that these antagonists became a crucial part of the plot. With that decision, their shadows and gravity grew heavier upon the tapestry of the story I wrote in latter chapters.
Revising chapter one just after writing the climax, where these villains are key players, really gave me the perspective I needed to grant them a proper introduction. I knew who they were now. How they operated. And what I needed to foreshadow in order to benefit the chapters that followed the first. Getting right to work, I redid all of the action in the opener. It now flows much better with all my antagonists properly named and characterized.
From there, I moved on to chapter thirteen. The work here was different because it was much more focused on Cori. She plays a pivotal role in this part, and as I said above the major change with her rewrite is the new dynamic she introduces between herself and others. The pay-off of my changes were evident as soon as I stopped writing: I loved the new flow and tone the revision gave the chapter.
Chapter fourteen was the easiest in terms of rewriting Cori. Her interactions here are mostly between herself and my protagonists, Viv and Gronk, and those relationships are identical to what she had before the rewrite. I gave more focus to refining the tension and dramatic action of this climactic chapter instead. I also put a stronger spotlight on lead antagonist Adam, whose story arc in the novel comes to what I hope will be a surprising end at this point. This amounted to mostly a few reworked and added lines, all now very sharp and pointed to underscore his character. Hopefully they will better highlight what his exit represents for the novel as the plot enters falling action.
I also took the opportunity while combing through prior chapters to do a few touch-ups here and there. These included tweaking Viv and Gronk’s initial meeting and dialogue a little bit, using the knowledge I’ve gained from writing their rhythm in the proceeding chapters. There was also a cosmetic change to Viv’s hairstyle that I had been wanting to work in for a while that gives her a much better lone, rural and “do-it-yourself” punk look.
The lead antagonist got a more substantial change in appearance… or rather, I finally decided to make him distinctive. You see, before this point I’d left him rather vaguely described, because I myself didn’t have a clear physical vision of Adam. That changed for me while writing the climax, so in my weekend work I added the key traits I wanted to comprise his look. It was a another good change! I was extra happy with one trait in particular… I used it for subtle symbolic effect with multiple aspects of his characterization each time he had a scene. I really got a lot from adding just a few more lines of detail.
Oh yeah, and I named a baseball bat. ;-)
I’m going to end this week’s update with some very appropriate snippets: The opening pages of the newly revised first chapter! They feature a lot of what I was talking about above. My frequent readers might find that I’ve shared a few chunks out of what follows before… But I assure you that there is much more that is newly redone or I haven’t put out yet. No matter what, I hope you enjoy!
(Warning: NSFW language and first draft snippets ahead! These can be clicked for larger views.)