Wrestling with a story–Beating the Apocalypse

This summer has been about the complete rewrite of a novella as I expand it into a full-length novel. Seeking Shelter at the End of the World came out from eTreasures Publishing over three years ago. It wasn’t one of my premium projects at the time (that honor went to a series, Netwalk Sequence) and I had been recruited to submit something to this small press because of my placement in an anthology that was an award finalist.

Well, cool. I had a short story and a novelette set in the same world, so I stuck them together to make a novella and sent it off, along with Pledges of Honor.

The writer-publisher relationship didn’t go well. I took the rights back to Pledges based on several technicalities, but I left Seeking Shelter alone to ride out the rest of the three-year-contract. It hadn’t been a priority and I had other projects ahead of it on the to-do list, certainly not enough to justify buying out the contract for early rights reversion. As near as I could tell, it wasn’t exactly selling that much, so I focused elsewhere–finishing the Netwalk Sequence, expanding Pledges into its own series (Goddess’s Honor), writing a fun short contemporary fantasy novel (Klone’s Stronghold).

Then things blew up a little over a year ago. I discovered that wait a minute, the story WAS selling (I had to make a right royal witch of myself to get a royalty report), and in the meantime I’d been noodling around with some concepts that would dovetail very nicely with the ending of Seeking Shelter. I thought it would be easy to repackage and get that story right back out there. But I wasn’t going to touch it until I had my rights back in hand (which proved to be a Very Good Idea, for Reasons–getting those rights back took a fight and I walked away from the promise of print publication, and for the record, I’m really glad I did). Still, I thought turning the book around and getting it out again wouldn’t be that hard.

Uh–no to the easy.

Seeking Shelter had suffered from a crappy first edit, of the sort where you send it back with blistering comments about how editorial recommendations don’t match the industry-standard basics (um…punctuating speech tags as action tags and vice versa, for one). Even as a less-experienced editor at the time I knew this editor screwed up. Fortunately, the second editing round was better, but I winced when I finally took a look at the story once the paperwork was done and I had rights back in my hot little hand. Dear God, it was a mess.

At the time Seeking Shelter was released, cli-fi was just starting to become a thing. The two stories had never quite been fully integrated–the short story piece, “Canaries,” was good enough to earn an Honorable Mention in Writers of the Future but it lacked sufficient worldbuilding to carry the premise. I could see where adding on the concepts I’d been noodling with over the past three years would be enough to make it a longer, better, book.

All right. I had the extension premise to work with. Slap that onto the back end of the existing story and get it back out there, right?

Uh, no.

Characterization of the antagonist reared its ugly head, since he was created from the finest cardboard. Ick. So I started digging around in what might motivate this guy (as well as fixing up a few things, bringing a dead secondary character back to life, creating the antagonist’s love interest, and…and…and.).

One thing kept leading to another. There’s been times when I’ve thought about walking away from this project, but on the other hand, the more I started poking at this world, the more promise I saw in it. Over the course of the last month or so, since Fishtrap, I’ve taken a deep breath and decided to go big with the story. It deserves much more than a slapdash, half-assed rewrite.

But finding the right path for this book hasn’t been easy. Various notes on paper and in Scrivener tell the tale. I decided the antagonist needed to have a voice. I went down various plotbuilding rat holes and dead ends. Meanwhile, we’re going through a horribly hot and dry summer which makes my brain fuzzy (I am SO not a hot weather person), while giving me inspiration.

All the same, I’m now at the point where I feel as if I can wrap my hands around the basic plot. I’ve added one more point of view, and today I did preblocking preparation so that I can sit down with my favorite yellow legal pad in landscape layout to block out the entire book. I still need to build elements of this world but now I KNOW the backstory and can go from there with it.

It’s a complete rewrite now. The first round rewrite just wasn’t enough. Bandaids and warts are visible. I’m going to start fresh, though there will be copying and pasting from the latest version into an entirely separate document. I may do this one in Scrivener to make things easier on me; at the very least things are going to be swapped back and forth between Word and Scrivener as the situation requires. Portions of the first 2/3rds of the book are written but as it stands, instead of 20,000 to 40,000 more words, I need to add about 60,000 words.

But I’m going to do it. This book is going to be much more kick-ass than its progenitor. Instead of Seeking Shelter at the End of the World, it’s now Beating the Apocalypse. I still intend to end it on a positive note–but there’s going to be a lot more to it than there was before. I’m projecting a late 2018/early 2019 publication date, just because I don’t think this one is going to come along easily. I may end up doing like I did with Klone’s Stronghold and putting it aside to get a Goddess’s Honor book, Choices of Honor, done (along with short stories, essays, and poems. It’s time to get back into spec short story writing). Choices is already semi-blocked out and I just need to do a few more prep things before I get rolling on it.

I’m still planning to put out the middle-aged ski bum memoir, Ski Days, this November. Most of that is taken from blog posts I wrote over the years about skiing.

It’s gonna be a fun ride.

Leave a Comment

Filed under Beating the Apocalypse

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *