Saturday, April 4, 2015

Changing Horses Midstream

Behind the Story of Centenary Separation (Part 8, the Last)

Warning:  this post contains spoilers for the first two Watchbearers books, and I recommend reading those before this.  Also be warned that this shows the ‘sausage-making’ aspect of writing, which some of you may not want to know about.

So, though the tales of my main characters had come together nicely as I wrote the first draft, I’d begun my big rewrite determined to take each POV character separately, tackling their scenes in a block.  But after going through the Anya chapters, I realized that concentrating on their individual stories wasn’t working.  Because they weren’t really separate stories but parts of a whole, even if the connections were looser than in Millennium Crash.  And I’m not just talking about the plot – though pieces of the different characters’ stories did fit together – there were also thematic links between what they were going through.
And what I’d found as I rewrote Anya’s story in isolation was that I was isolating her even further as I did so.  Which would be fine if I were writing separate short stories for these characters, but I wasn’t.  I was writing a novel, and I needed to be integrating the various storylines (which were already too intertwined to stand on their own anyway) even more.

To do that I really needed to be rewriting the book in order, the way it would be read, to make sure the experience of reading it as one book, one overall story, would work.  Which meant I had to start rewriting all over again from the beginning.

Not that the work I’d already done was wasted – I’d realized a lot of things that needed to be changed and made a lot of improvements – but when I approached the story from the beginning again with a better understanding of what I should be doing…

Well, that third time around I ending up making one major alteration – I added Nye into the prologue.  When I’d first written it, Anya and Tate had left her behind, and that seemed to go along with Anya’s loneliness.  But there had always been a niggle at the back of my brain that there was something wrong with the prologue.  This time through I realized what it was – some of the things Tate had been saying weren’t really him.  It was Nye speaking through his character.

Her presence had been there in that scene all along, but I hadn’t recognized it.  Everything fell into place, then, when I rewrote the prologue with Nye sharing the ride in the back of the town car.  And ironically, her actual presence served only to reinforce Anya’s sense of loneliness.  Getting the prologue right helped me have a better grasp on the novel as a whole and do a better job of making the subtle little connections between the different characters’ stories.

Everything came into better alignment as I rewrote Centenary Separation as one big story, from the plot details to the thematic elements.  So that by the time I reached the epilogue, it all felt like it was wrapping up with a bow, despite the disparate finales for some of the characters.  It had finally become the story it was supposed to be.

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