Lately, I’ve been working mostly on rewriting THE IGNORED PROPHECY, which is the sequel to THE SHAMAN’S CURSE. Now, TIP is the second book I wrote (third, if you count that thing back in college, but let’s not talk about that one). I learned more from writing TIP than I ever did from the first version of TSC.
TIP is the book that made me into a modified discovery writer, because I managed to write the whole first version, over 100,000 words, without actually telling a story. I knew it wasn’t a story as I finished the last chapter of the first draft, but I didn’t know why. It took quite a few false starts and incorrect diagnoses before I figured it out. It was missing a central conflict–the thing that tells you that the story starts here (when the problem is first made clear) and ends there (when the conflict is resolved). The central conflict is the river current that pulls a story forward. Without it, you have characters doing things, other things happening to characters, but you don’t have a story.
Now, I will say that I’ve seen that particular problem in plenty of traditionally published sequels, even some popular ones. I call those bridge stories. The point of the middle book of a trilogy sometimes appears to be only to get the characters from the end of book one to the start of book two. And there are always those stories (think LORD OF THE RINGS) where no individual book is really meant to be a story. They have to be taken as a whole.
Still, I want the book of my series to be able to stand alone. And the first version of TIP didn’t. I believe I fixed that problem years ago. (In this case, it’s a mystery. Just why is my main character’s magic behaving so strangely?) Still, it won’t hurt to heighten that central problem as I go through the rewrite.
There are clearly a lot of things I hadn’t learned, yet, though. Quite apart from it being a sequel (which I’ve posted about before), there are many facets of this rewrite that are possibly harder than writing a first draft from scratch. And, of course, some things that are easier.
The easy, first. The characters and the plot are already set. While I will certainly add some scenes as I go, and I may delete others, the plot itself is already there.
The hard part. Well, there’s a lot to clean up. I clearly didn’t have a great understanding of dialog mechanics. I didn’t begin to know how to show emotions. And don’t get me started on the number of point-of-view violations I’m finding. In fact, point of view is going to be an issue I’ll need to tackle in a later draft. I’ll need to decide whether to give certain pov characters their own chapters, or just use scene breaks.
The hard truth is that even though I’m working through a completed draft, it’s going to take several passes to bring this manuscript up to my current standard. Well, that’s just another way to learn–and drive the lessons home for my future stories. And I will make TIP into the story it’s capable of being–eventually.