Fireworks for Byrhtnoth

I have come to a turning point. Well, not a turning point, just a place to stop and take stock of where I am going.

This afternoon, I finished editing Book 2. Not sure which edit it is but I have gone through the first draft, checking for all those words I overuse. One of the worst was “look”. My characters look up, look down, they look at each other, they look at the sky, at the sea and their own hands. Well, they did, but not any more, and you know what? They don’t miss it at all (I did have to put back one or two, You can’t have a whole book without the word “look”.) Other words were Begin and Start, as in “he began to do something” – no he didn’t – he just did it! There are many others – I got rid of as many as possible. Then there were the adverbs – chopped.

When I had done that, I printed out the whole thing, then locked myself away where no-one could hear and read it out loud! The things you discover when you do that! I returned to the computer with my, by now, colourful pages and made the amendments, picking up other errors on the way.

I now have a readable manuscript of just over 91K words – just where I wanted to be. I have turned it into an ebook and sent it off to my Beta readers – yes, I have actually found someone to do that job. I was tempted to write another chapter – there are a few loose ends, but that can wait, for now.

While going through all this, scenes for book 3 have been running through my mind. When the first line appeared, I knew I had to start writing again. I thought about taking part in NaNoWriMo, but didn’t allow myself to start until the editing was finished. It’s too late now, but I would never have managed 50k words in a month. I have too many other things to do.

Bright Sword finally came to the end of its proofread/copyediting and is being printed. It is available for pre-order in all the usual outlets. It even has a review on Good Reads – four stars!

So now I have given a big sigh (another overused word!) and prepare to start writing again.

To celebrate this, and because it’s 5th November, here are some fireworks.

And if you are wondering what fireworks have to do with Byrhtnoth, this picture is from a film was taken on 10th August 1991 – the finale of the thousand-year anniversary of the Battle of Maldon.

(It was supposed to be a video, but apparently it was the wrong format – just hum Ride of the Valkyries and imagine the bangs!)

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I’m back!

The dust lies thick on every surface, the drooping house plants beg for water and the pile of unread newspapers has become a menace to aviation. The tumbleweed has rolled unchecked across the wastes of this blog.

Yes, I have been re-writing and I have finished – well nearly finished.

It was back in October, the 18th to be precise, that I debated whether to re-write the book, or not. The one thing I knew wouldn’t work was to make Byrhtnoth the narrator.

Guess what – he is!

I realised that I am the writer, I refused to be bullied. I would decide who is going to do what in my book. So I sat him down – he is considerably taller than me, twisted his arm – and told him to have a go.

It didn’t start well, that troublesome first chapter is still being re-written, but he soon got into the swing of it.

The first thing I discovered is that he is much stricter than me. Whole scenes were cut because they were holding up the story, conversations were truncated and my darlings were massacred all over the place.

Since he is telling the story, there is a bit more telling and less showing. Instead of someone, usually Wulfstan, watching how his friend reacts to something, Byrhtnoth tells us himself – and he isn’t always aware of how he appears to others. The book has lost something, but, I hope, gained in other ways.

I didn’t start writing from scratch. I took a few sentences at a time and changed “He” to “I”, “His” to “My” etc. I think it was this concentration on every word that helped me spot errors. It also made conversations easier to write. “I said this”, “He said that” meant less use of names to differentiate which “him” was talking.

Obviously I did not take part in NaNoWriMo; I had already started the re-write before November began, but used the end of the month as a target. I thought I wouldn’t make it, but at 5 pm last Wednesday, 30th November, I came to the end.

It had been hard. There was one Saturday, I don’t remember which, when I emerged and literally didn’t know what day it was!

There is still more to do. I must go through checking that I haven’t missed any of those “He”s and “Him”s. Then its off to the beta readers (more wanted, if anyone’s interested), and a professional edit. I have even set a date for publication – sometime next year, or the year after – you don’t think I’m going to tell anyone until it’s fixed?

Meanwhile, I have watered the plants, read the paper – the dust can wait. I might even post a few book reviews.

And did someone say Christmas is getting close?

The best it can be?

I am thinking about re-writing my book.

Why on earth am I thinking of something so drastic? I don’t want to do it, but aren’t we told to make our work the best it can be?

For a long time I have been worrying about the start. I have written before on whether to have a prologue or not, and if so what it should be. I eventually decided to ditch the prologue and as I had received favourable remarks about the start, it remained. Not untouched, it had gone through my editing with slight changes, but essentially it remained the same piece of writing that came from an exercise in class nearly four years ago. This is a long time ago and I think (hope) that my writing has improved since then.

When submitting to agents, publishers etc. You have to send the first chapter/1000 words/3000 words etc plus synopsis. I had thought the first chapter was OK, but had the feeling it wasn’t as good as “that scene later on, when…”

The book is written in the third person from the protagonist’s (Byrhtnoth) point of view, except for occasions when he is not around.

Recently I was lying in bed, worrying about that first chapter and thought “Why not try it in the first person?”. In the next writing class we were talking about opposites and the homework was to write a scene about two characters showing the differences between them. The two ideas clashed and fused. I rewrote the first scene in the book in the first person, but it wasn’t from Byrhtnoth’s POV, it was Wulfstan’s, his friend. The scene is the first time they meet. I had used Wulfstan in the prologues, looking back and saying he was going to write the story of Byrhtnoth – now he was telling it!

It was easy to write and I enjoyed it. I don’t like to brag, but it was good. I could carry on and write the whole of the first chapter in his voice. The second chapter would have to be completely rewritten, difficult but possible. But what happens then?

The plot divides, Byrhtnoth and Wulfstan part, taking different paths. They meet later and separate again. In fact for a lot of the book, Byrhtnoth is on his own. You might say, why not make Byrhtnoth the narrator? It wouldn’t work, I don’t know why, but Byrhtnoth doesn’t look back – he acts. Wulfstan remembers and writes it down.

What do I do?

I could use my new piece (500 words) which take place outside a door and continue with the original chapter in  third person – through the door.
Write the whole first chapter (3k+ words – it has been three shorter chapters!) in first person. The main characters are aged 7.
The second chapter is five years later, more action and Byrhtnoth soon leaves. It really needs to be third person. Should I add a first person intro? But then would have to continue throughout the book. Would it interrupt the action?

We were talking about NaNoWriMo at class last week, I said I might use it to re-write the book from scratch in first person. I don’t know if I could do it. It would be a completely different book, perhaps better, perhaps a waste of time.

Perhaps I should just wait for some feedback from my Beta Readers!

I think writing this post is helping me to clarify things, although I would welcome comments.