It’s Like Chess. And Maybe Jenga.

Revising my release targets into goals has been a good change.

It’s given me space to get things done and recharge my creative batteries. The change was also well timed, as things at the day job have been very stressful the past two weeks. I’m glad to not be stacking stress onto more stress as I would have been doing before.

I got back to work on A Contract in Azure and Indigo. I distilled a list of revision goals for the 6th draft from my editor’s manuscript evaluation. Her points for improvement break into two sections: Structural/plot suggestions and then matters of sentence structure and prose. I decided to tackle the plot changes first. That allows me to sweep the new and old sections when I do the sentence structure and prose revisions later. It’s also the more fun part. ;-)

Her plot advice focused on lacking background to define the relationships between characters. This hurt the story from the start. It made it hard for her to understand the associated stakes and motivations. And to care about the characters. I did answer a fair number of these questions in the last chapter, but that was far too late in her opinion. This critique was one I’d feared might occur. It’s something I’d tried to address in prior revisions after beta reader feedback pointed to the same. But more needs to be done.

Doing some deep thinking on how I could improve matters, I struck on what I thought was a good idea. Starting on the second paragraph of page one, I added 800 words. The focus of the addition’s dialog is someone telling a personal story. This story existed since the first drafts of Azure & Indigo as a minor plot point later in the tale. However, now it has much more significance and emotional weight.

The addition illustrates background and relationship as an organic undercurrent of the dialogue. It’s a very deliberate move on my part to address the failings highlighted by Editor Lauren.

In writing this addition, I was inspired to plot several other short scenes. These were very much not deliberate. They were musings I had integrating this new opening with the rest of the story. As additions, I would say they don’t strictly need to be in the story. It could function without them. But after I began considering them, I realized how they would add a new dimension to the tale. How they would strengthen its central twist and romantic aspect. How much they would improve the story without throwing out anything already written.

I got excited. :-)

I’m taking my time and being very thorough with integrating the opening addition now. After initially writing it, I went back and reworked and expanded all of it. I considered the placement of every line and put in as much polish as I could, because a lot rides on it. It’s the first pages of the book, obviously, introducing upfront stakes and conflicts. But between those lines, it needs to float out more. Most of the lines are pulling double duty. They may be introducing stakes and conflicts, but they’re also setting up surprises for later.

It’s like chess. And maybe Jenga. I’m plotting moves all the way to the last page with what’s written and still unwritten. I want to get it all right. And on top of that, I’m rethreading the story’s narrative presentation at the same time.

Azure & Indigo is going from four chapters to seven. I started by separating the first and last chapters into halves and made each their own chapter. Then I shifted the starts and ends of the old middle chapters. This created six chapters from the existing manuscript averaging 2,500 words apiece. It’s mostly a matter of moving demarcations to improve pacing, really… with one big exception: I’m inserting an all-new fourth chapter right in the middle of them.

These will be the new scenes I was inspired to do, and that I’m excited to add. Their placement here as a chapter will be perfect within the story. It’ll extend the cliffhanger chapter three ends on and throw the reader a big curve. Then it’ll intrigue them as they begin to discover how it interconnects to the rest of the tale. And where do the threads begin that will stitch this bit together with the whole?

Why, with all that new material in the revised first chapter I’m fretting over, of course. ;-)

Have a great week everyone, and keep writing!

~Jason H. Abbott.

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