Done again, for now

Yesterday afternoon I submitted my “final” manuscript. I should get the edits back in early October.

In my last week of editing I used ProWritingAid to focus on issues in the writing. Two reasons:

  1. I didn’t want to re-read every chapter. Not only would it take too long but I’d get bogged down.
  2. I wanted to focus on removing words w/o rewriting every other sentence.

Words removed!

Here are the results of that process:

  • Starting word count: 91,971
  • Ending word count: 88,000
  • Words removed: 3,972 (~4.3% of the book)

Got report?

I used three PWA reports on three passes per chapter:

  • First pass, Sticky sentences: Sentences overloaded with “glue” words (and, in, the, of, etc.). On average I had ten of these sentences per chapter. Sometimes these are fixed by removing words or, more often, by rewriting the sentence.
  • Second pass, Writing Style: This report highlights issues involving passive and hidden verbs, over-reliance on adverbs, repeated sentence starts.
  • Third pass, Real-time: My final (quick) pass thru the chapter just to catch anything the first two reports missed (very little).

PWA has many other reports: cliche, structure, readability, pacing, overused, echoes, etc. I’m sure some of those also would have been valuable. In my unscientific “tests” of those reports, the three I settled on seemed to provide the most bang for my time. YMMV.

Next steps

During the next 6 weeks or so, my plan is to:

  • Put some time & effort into learning how to advertise & market. More on that later. This is critical.
  • Revisit the 67K words I’ve written for Book 3. Ninety percent of them werds is trash — old ideas, bad ideas, crap writing, wrong POV characters, obsolete plot points, etc. My goal is to get BK3 thoroughly revamped and outlined by year end. After that, It’ll probably take two years to write. Which is depressing.
  • Keep writing by working on my Lit-RPG series. I want to figure out a way to work on BK3 while also writing ~1,500 words in Lit-RPG…with the goal of publishing ’em every month as a serial adventure. More planning needed.

And, finally, if all goes well, DGtS will publish in December 2019. So, yeah, done but not done.

Before and After

Here’s another short example of a first-round edit to a chapter hook — the bad before and mediocre after.

Here’s the before (128 words)

Frigg watched sparks fly from the hooves of the two goats—Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher—who hauled the cart through the sky. The skies rumbled like a rickety bridge beneath the wheels of Thor’s cart. At first, he was a speck in the sky no bigger than a distant bird. By the time she’d climbed down to the ground, Thor was overhead.

He circled the hilltop once, twice, leaning out over the rail as he peered down, and then guided the cart down to a bumpy landing. He stepped from the car, freed the goats from the traces so they could wander, and then in a booming voice said, “Why was the Gjallarhorn sounded? I see no army at the gates nor any trace of an enemy within miles.”

Matt Bishop, Dark Grows the Sun

What’s wrong with the above?

Nothing grabs you because:

  • Frigg is “watching” — inherently passive and boring.
  • The scene is about Frigg but the attention is on Thor.
  • Thor gets all the action, such as it is.

And here’s the after (107 words)

Frigg climbed down from Heimdall’s tower to greet the arriving Thor. The skies rumbled beneath the wheels of Thor’s cart as he circled above the hilltop, one hand raised in greeting. A pair of goats pulled his cart—Toothgrinder and Toothgnasher. Their shod hooves hammered sparks from the air.

Somber, Frigg raised her hand in reply. Thor wouldn’t know why he’d been summoned. He’d flown faster than the news had spread.

The hilltop boomed first beneath the cart as it landed and then again beneath Thor’s voice. “Why was the Gjallarhorn sounded? I see no army at the gates nor any trace of an enemy within miles.”

Matt Bishop, Dark Grows the Sun

What’s better about it?

  • Frigg is more active; she’s doing something
  • We’re more in her head — she’s somber, there’s an inkling as to why Thor is arriving…which the reader knows but Thor clearly doesn’t.
  • It’s a little shorter

What’s wrong with the revision?

  1. The second sentence is clunkier than Thor’s cart.
  2. It’s still more about Thor than it is about Frigg.
  3. I’ve basically just reorganized the existing text. The transitions from ‘graph to ‘graph feel stilted.
  4. I think I’m cramming too much into that first paragraph. The bit about the goats needs to go, maybe. Frigg knows their names, so that’s an infodump that could either wait till later or just never be provided. It’s not relevant to the scene.
  5. It’s still boring.

I suspect I’ll end up ditching the last two sentences of the first paragraph and/or rewriting the entire hook. Either way, I’ll let ye olde subconscious work on it for a bit.

8 Days Out

I have eight writing days until my deadline (the 19th). Yes, that math doesn’t work, but I typically don’t write on the days my wife works.

Eight days works out to roughly 30 hours of writing (assuming I hit my average hours writing per day). That’s not a lot (especially considering I dropped ~16 into one scene). I could probably scrape together another ~8 hours, but I can’t count on that.

The good news is that the work I’ve transitioned into is mostly “editing.” For me this means going through each chapter. Repeatedly. Here’s a short list of what I’m doing.

Revising chapter hooks

I make sure that the first sentence of each chapter begins with:

  • The POV character’s name
  • An active verb
  • A decent hook.

This can mean considerable rewriting…or not. Depends.

Tip: If your opening paragraph is passive / boring, skip down a couple paragraphs. That may be where the “action” starts. Put that bit at the beginning and either delete or splice in the original chapter beginning. Usually does the trick. But, it takes some work. In my case I often end up “killing my darlings” … which are almost always purple. Or just bad.

Revising chapter endings

Search “how to end chapters” and you’ll get a bunch of hits with advice on how to end chapters. Personally, I can’t keep all that advice in my head at once.

I just try to do two things:

  • Always end in the character’s POV
  • Have them doing/thinking/saying something cool (that relates to the plot, etc.).

Then I move on — which leaves me where I am now: going back and working out the kinks.

Tip: I also try to tie the closing words / concept / thought / action of one chapter into the opening of the chapter right after it. Doing so can help pull the reader through from one to the other. I’m pretty crap at this.

Multiple editing passes

DGtS happens over a nine day period & that’s how I’ve organized my Binder in Scrivener. Each day consists of multiple POV chapters.

In my first “editing” pass I stick to one POV per book-day. Example: Odin has 2 chapters during Day 5. I’ll edit his consecutively rather than go: Odin > Frigg > Loki > Odin. This helps me keep the POV voice consistent from chapter to chapter.

During my second pass, I will work consecutively through each chapter so I’d edit Odin > Frigg > Loki > Odin. In this pass I’m more focused on the chapters flowing smoothly from one to the other.

Throughout these passes I’m looking at words: Are these the best words? Which words can I remove? Can I use fewer words to say the same thing?

But I also try not to get too nit-picky b/c that’ll slow down the overall process. And my editor will do that. But the cleaner my copy, the better her edit.

Wait, what?

I’m also looking for inconsistencies, plot holes, opportunities to improve clarity, etc. .

Here’s an example. A bunch of rebels get captured in one of my early scenes…and are never referred to again. That makes no sense because in two later chapters Odin interrogates one rebel and then another.

So, I had to figure out a simple way of weaving in a reference to that first group of rebels. I can’t write a new scene b/c I don’t have time and it’d detract from what I’ve already written.

My solution: A two-ish line reference by Odin that essentially said “those bad guys were questioned but had no actionable info.”

Follow that thread

I’ve mentioned this in other posts, but there’s always a chance that when you change even a single line you have to fix everything else associated with that line. Just goes with the territory. I’ve chased quite a few already; hopefully won’t be too many more.

Overall, I’m confident I’ll hit my deadline. I’m at the point where more time won’t help…I’d just end up futzing with it. Gotta move forward!

Sixteen hours and counting

As I mentioned in my last post, I’ve been having trouble rewriting a scene with Frigg in Ifington. I’ve (mostly) figured out the geography & layout of the city and its environs — enough to write about it, at least.

Scene Goals

The bigger issue continues to be the scene’s goals. Frigg has two plot arcs in DGtS. The first deals with Hodr. The second deals with Baldr.

The goals of the scene, then are to:

  1. Transition smoothly to the 2nd arc.
  2. Make Frigg feel guilty about saving Baldr.
  3. Tie into what’s going on with Odin
  4. Worldbuild without forcing it and/or infodumping

So, pretty standard stuff. But in this case, for me, tough. So far, I’ve spent at least 16 hours working on this scene.

I’m working! No, really

That’s not all pure writing, of course. A lot of it is:

  1. Staring at the screen, thinking
  2. Jumping off on short research tangents — e.g., I had to give Frigg a matronymic that made sense. Another one is finding names for minor characters. Ordinarily I’d skip this step but I’m doing it now b/c I have to deliver the book to my editor in less than a month.
  3. Looking for new music to listen to
  4. Getting up & moving around
  5. Writing, rewriting, editing

Right now, the scene’s at ~2,400 words. Back in March 2019 this same scene was ~1,300 words long. None of those original words are in the current scene which is fine b/c the original scene was pretty craptastic. Here’s why:

  1. It was passive. Frigg was either listening to people give reports, or describing events from a distance. The original scene began with her literally flying over the city and describing what she saw. /yawn
  2. It didn’t advance/complicate the plot.

Fixin’ stuff

Here’s how I’m trying to fix these issues.

  1. Make Frigg active from the get go. In DGtS I’ve done a much better job of starting scenes in medias res but it’s still not second nature.
  2. Getting her active in the scene’s events. My next pass will focus on making this better. I’m trying to believably make her start feeling guilty about Baldr b/c it helps make what comes in later scenes more impactful. That’s my working theory, at least.
  3. Advance the plot: Still weak here. Maybe by working on the prior point I can make the scene more effective.

Over the next week or so I’ll probably spend another four hours (at least) reworking this scene. Lotta effort that I hope pays off. All told I have roughly 42-ish hours of writing time before I send the book off. Many other things to work through in that time besides this one scene.

ATM, DGts is ~92K words. Kinsmen Die clocked in around 175K words. Which is nuts. Having written that huge book this second one feels a whole lot shorter (cause it is) and as a result, a whole lot more manageable.

Maps!

Whenever I hit worldbuilding snags I tend to switch mediums. My current issue is with one of Frigg’s scenes that I’m rewriting. In it, she flies from Jarnstadr (pictured below) to Ifington — and then she flies over Ifington itself.

The problem was I didn’t have a good picture of what Ifington looked like. So I kept confusing myself, hitting iterative, unproductive loops on describing the city — and then I just gave up….and started drawing.

In KD, I described Ifington in very broad strokes…

  1. Had been a settlement founded by the Jotunn which the Aesir took from them
  2. Was on a long strip of land connecting Asgard to Utgard
  3. Was split in at least two pieces by the river Ifing (which in myth is a boundary between Asgard and Utgard)..
  4. Had an “old bridge”
  5. Had two newer bridges somewhere in the city
  6. Had the Bay of Thund to the west and the Great Sea to the east

Rather than start by mapping Ifington (which I eventually did), I started drawing my world. I’d actually done it before, but this time I really dove into it.

What I’ve posted below is the fourth iteration of one section of my world. I’m no cartographer — nor much of an artist. But, this crude map has helped a lot even though it’s not the “final” iteration.

A portion of the world in KD and DGtS

Here’s a list of the things wrong with the map:

  • Ugly, heh.
  • Scale is totally whacked.
  • Jarnstadr should be north of Ifington, not east
  • A little inconsistent with some of what I wrote in KD
  • I don’t like that peninsula cutting down into the Great Sea.
  • I wanted the Thund closer to Ifington.
  • There should be more continent “west” of Gladsheim.

My sketch of Ifington itself is even cruder than this one. But, it’ll help me finish rewriting the scene tomorrow — which was the whole point.

Because of my days-long tangent, I’ve found some good map-making & worldbuilding resources. Check these guys out:

  • WASD20: draws fantasy maps & has some good tutorials on how to do it. He mentions a few other resources as well (which I haven’t looked at).
  • Stoneworks: some worldbuilding tips based on the real world. Good for maps as well as helping make sure your world makes sense.

I also tinkered with Inkarnate and watched some videos of Campaign Cartographer (CC3). Last year I had bought a year-long license of Inkarnate (it’s not expensive) and tinkered with it here and there. CC3 looks pretty powerful but also time-consuming.

If I’ve learned anything from these past few days it’s this: I’m a writer who dabbles in map-making not the other way around.

From down in the weeds…

In the editorial report my editor sent me, one of her comments was this:

Inelegant variation and absolute phrases are no longer overwhelming the writing—where did the overwriting go?

I bolded the last part because I wanted to show an example of my own overwriting.

In working on DGtS I’ve been going back into Kinsmen Die to make sure I’m getting my continuity right — events, description, etc. As I do that I’m having to re-read my own writing…which is sometimes a little cringe-inducing.

Here’s an example of the old:

…as if they were caught amid a school of silvery fish. Below them, a river of frozen stars coursed outward, flowing like molten rock and singing with the voice of an avalanche.
The river stretched like a sea monster’s tentacle back into the Hvergelmir, which lay spread below them like an open-petaled flower. At this remove, the cauldron’s voice was the merest susurration, but the way it swirled and spun like fast-moving storm clouds entranced his eye just as it always had. It had thrown eleven giant arms out across the face of the Ginnungagap. The roaring cauldron was fed from above by a never-ending cascade of white fire and from below by red roiling fire.

Kinsmen Die, Matt Bishop

And here’s the new. I wrote it without first going back to see what how I’d originally described the Ginnungagap.

He stared down into a familiar place—the Ginnungagap. Red roiling fire blasted into the Gap from below; flowing ice plummeted from above. And where the two torrents met, the Roaring Cauldron churned, stretching out eleven mighty arms across the Gap. And still the Gap was unfilled.

Dark Grows the Sun, forthcoming, Matt Bishop

So I’m not saying the newer version is good per se, but I do think it’s better than what I wrote 2+ years ago.

And that’s some of the fun of writing — looking back and seeing the progress.

I bent my Wookie…

And then I broke my book. Here’s how.

My editor had said that my manuscript was pretty solid overall. Scattered throughout the chapters, though, were comments like “how does this advance the plot?” or “how does this complicate things for XYZ?”

Oh my darling…

For example, I have an encounter between Odin and a woman who’ll be important in Book 3. I like that scene for several different reasons, but it doesn’t really move Odin’s plot forward in the second book. I’m still wrestling with how to fix it (if it’s even possible).

Oh my darling…

Here’s another example. Toward the end of the book while Odin is spiraling downward into his “black moment of despair” he has a somewhat light-hearted conversation with a giant squirrel named Ratatoskr. There’s a lot of worldbuilding in the scene, good dialogue and some humor.

But the tone puts the brakes on Odin’s downward spiral. It relieves reader tension rather than intensifying it.

When I started trying to fix that scene I attempted to bend it to my will. Odin must speak to Ratatoskr! (Because I like the scene.) He must! It’s IMPORTANT! (Because I like the scene!)

Okay, fine, bending doesn’t work. It might be a good scene, but it’s in the wrong place.

The ripple effect

So I moved it. But that caused more problems: It had to be tweaked to reflect its new place in the book, and then I had to shift other scenes and tweak those, etc.

And then I had to solve time & place issues. These are particularly thorny because several events can only happen at certain times because, in part, it takes an established amount of time to get from Gladsheim to Helheim at a normal pace (three nights). I fudged it slightly b/c it could plausibly be done faster if you’re in a rush — but not twice as fast.

And when Hel and Hermod converse, Odin needs to be with or near Heimdall so that he can find out about it. And then they need to get word to Frigg which only Odin can do.

Yep, busted.

So, that’s how it gets complicated…and that’s how I broke my book.

Here’s the question, though, was it broken to begin with and I just didn’t realize it? My guess is “yes.” My editor spotted those flaws — maybe for a different reason entirely — pointed ’em out, and when I pushed on ’em…they crumbled.

With all that said, the book IS fundamentally good. I feel it in mah bones. But I need to set those bones and let ’em heal over.

And to put all of the above a different way: Kill your darlings.

After Ragnarok

I started writing in 2013. At that time I hadn’t ever read the Poetic Edda or the Prose Edda. I’d maybe read Padraic Colum’s book…maybe…and maybe some other secondary / derivative kid-focused books along with Simonson’s Thor stint, of course.

The Post-Ragnarok World

So when I read Voluspa (followed by the other Eddas) I was blown away for lots of different reasons. For example, I not only learned how the gods would die but that there was a world after Ragnarok. 

This post, then, provides an overview of what that world looks like based first on the Voluspa and then on a stanza from the Vafthruthrismol. In the former, Odin summons a volva (yes, that’s the word. It basically means “seeress”) from the grave and asks her questions (see the footnotes for an intriguing, alternative interpretation of that poem). In the latter, Odin engages in a battle of wits with the wisest Jotunn, Vafthrudnir. 

The Voluspa

The poem can be found here. There are online sources, as well. So it’s clear, my commentary (though it’s hardly sophisticated enough to merit that word) precedes the quoted stanzas. I don’t do justice to the poems or their nuances so I encourage you to read them.

Stz 59 describes how the renewed earth rises from beneath the waves. This is after Surtr burns the whole shebang. The “I” probably refers to the seeress. The alternative interpretation referenced below suggests that the seeress has summoned Odin and is interrogating him. I need to read that paper again b/c it’s a really neat way to interpret the poem.

59. Now do I see | the earth anew
Rise all green | from the waves again;
The cataracts fall, | and the eagle flies,
And fish he catches | beneath the cliffs.

In Stanza 60, the gods meet in Ithavoll which is the original area where they had met pre-Ragnarok. However, the gods meeting after Ragnarok are only the survivors: Vidar, Vali, Magni and Modi, Baldr and Hodr. There may be more gods who survive but they are not named.

The “terrible girdler” is Jormungandr — the Midgard serpent; Loki’s son. He kills Thor. The “ancient runes of” refers to Odin.

I don’t understand that “golden tables” reference except that it probably means the surviving gods have reclaimed and/or found some of the old wisdom.

60. The gods in Ithavoll | meet together,
Of the terrible girdler | of earth they talk,
And the mighty past | they call to mind,
And the ancient runes | of the Ruler of Gods.

61. In wondrous beauty | once again
Shall the golden tables | stand mid the grass,
Which the gods had owned | in the days of old,
. . . . . . . . . .

In Stz 62, we learn that Baldr and Hodr come back from Hel to dwell in Odin’s “battle-hall.” Also, the fields are fertile and “all ills grow better” – describing a new fertility after the fire and flood. Note that the “would you know yet more?” is a repeated refrain. It’s almost a taunt, as if the seeress (or Odin) is saying “can you handle knowing more?” Also note that virtually the entirety of the Voluspa prior to these stanzas has dealt with how the world is destroyed and how the major gods die.

62. Then fields unsowed | bear ripened fruit,
All ills grow better, | and Baldr comes back;
Baldr and Hoth dwell | in Hropt’s battle-hall,
And the mighty gods: | would you know yet more?

Who-nir?

Stz 63: For me, the meaning here is obscure since “Hoenir” is only referenced a few other times in other sources. In those references he’s associated with Odin but it’s never really clear exactly who Hoenir is. This line also says that the official brothers of Odin – Vili and Ve – live in “the Home of the Wind” now…but we’d no good idea of where they were prior to Ragnarok. Or does Vindheim perhaps mean “heaven” (as the Bellows notes state) meaning that the brothers are dead?

63. Then Hönir wins | the prophetic wand,
. . . . . . . . . .
And the sons of the brothers | of Tveggi abide
In Vindheim now: | would you know yet more?

In Stz 64 the seeress describes a hall “roofed with gold” which is where the righteous rulers dwell, and happiness will be there. Then in Stz 65 she continues saying that a mighty lord will come to rule in the hall upon Gimle. This sounds very Christian to me – which is what the footnotes in the Bellows translation suggest. But even that’s not entirely clear. In fact, the Bellows notes state that there may have been significant “interpolation” here and perhaps throughout the Voluspa (and other eddas). This simply means that new material was inserted at some point.  

64. More fair than the sun, | a hall I see,
Roofed with gold, | on Gimle it stands;
There shall the righteous | rulers dwell,
And happiness ever | there shall they have.

65. There comes on high, | all power to hold,
A mighty lord, | all lands he rules.
. . . . . . . . . .
. . . . . . . . . .

The Corpse-laden Dragon

In Stz 66 the dragon Nithogg flies from Nidjafjoll (the Dark Crags) with the corpses of men on his wings. Creepy and brutal. 

Overall, I read it as Ragnarok happens, the world is roasted, flooded, some peeps and gods survive, re-emerge into a fresh new world with the best of the old world preserved…only for the dragon of death to make an appearance. Which is to say, sure, it’s good now, but just you wait…implying, perhaps, a cyclical view of time. 

The Voluspa concludes with the seeress saying “but now I must sink” — i.e., back into the grave from which Odin summoned her.

66. From below the dragon | dark comes forth,
Nithhogg flying | from Nithafjoll;
The bodies of men on | his wings he bears,
The serpent bright: | but now must I sink.

The Tale of Vafthrudnir

I immediately liked Vafthrudnir; just a cool character. Which, I guess, is why he made it into my books. The poem itself is a battle of wits in which Odin learns about the world from someone who is wiser than he. And then Odin pulls a fast one, wins the duel and Vaft loses his head.

In Stanza 45 of the Vathruthnismol Odin learns that “Lif” and “Lifthrasir” will emerge into the world after Ragnarok and have the morning dews for meat. The Bellows footnotes state that this pair are Life and Sturdy of Life, presumably male and female (and perhaps the same as Askr and Embla?). It is implied (imo) that this pair repopulates the earth.

Vafthruthnir spake:
45. “In Hoddmimir’s wood | shall hide themselves
Lif and Lifthrasir then;
The morning dews | for meat shall they have,
Such food shall men then find.”

In Stanza 50 Odin asks Vafthrudnir who will rule when the fires of Surtr have receded. Vaft answers indirectly saying that Vidar and Vali will dwell in the gods’ home afterward. And then he adds that Thor’s sons will have Mjolnir.

Wait, Who Dies?

When I was building my timeline for my books, this question implied that Odin already knew that the world was going to end…which meant he’d already spoken with the seeress in Voluspa. But, my hypothesis is contradicted elsewhere. Also, the first two lines are repeated throughout the poem.

Othin spake:
50. “Much have I fared, | much have I found,
Much have I got of the gods:
Who then shall rule | the realm of the gods,
When the fires of Surt have sunk?”

In Stanza 52, Odin asks how Odin dies in Ragnarok. Again, this question implies that Odin has already spoken to the seeress. Is he checking his sources against each other, looking for inconsistencies? Maybe a way out of his doom? /wink

Vaft answers, saying that Fenrir will kill Odin and that Vidar will avenge Odin’s death.

Vafthruthnir spake:
53. “The wolf shall fell | the father of men,
And this shall Vithar avenge;
The terrible jaws | shall he tear apart,
And so the wolf shall he slay.”

The final stanzas involve Odin pulling a fast one and Vaft losing his head over it. Think Biblo versus Gollum and the “what do I have in my pocket” question? It’s a cheap question, but the rules of the duel permit it.

Othin spake:
54. “Much have I fared, | much have I found,
Much have I got from the gods:
What spake Othin himself | in the ears of his son,
Ere in the bale-fire he burned?”

D’oh! 

In Stanza 55, Vaft concedes. But, for me the “thou” on the second line makes me think that Vaft knew he was dueling Odin either for the entirety of the poem or at some point midway thru (I’ll have to read it again to try & pinpoint it).

The “fated mouth” makes me think that Vaft had foreknowledge of this duel. the Bellows notes suggest that Vaft only figured it out at the end of the duel and now he knows he’s going to die. (In Crawford’s translation it is “doomed mouth.”)

Vafthruthnir spake:
55. “No man can tell | what in olden time
Thou spak’st in the ears of thy son;
With fated mouth | the fall of the gods
And mine olden tales have I told;
With Othin in knowledge | now have I striven,
And ever the wiser thou art.”

I think it’s cooler if Vaft had Odin pegged from the get-go and went thru with the duel anyway.

Free will vs Fate / Doom / Wyrd

All of the above, and more besides, has had me thinking hard about free will versus determinism / fate. To the point of watching random YouTube videos about the topic.

I won’t go off the deep end into those topics because this post is way too long as it is and I haven’t figured out how I want to incorporate this theme of free will versus fate into my books. It’s central to Norse myths and Odin”s character arc…and my second book. 

 

Note: Drinking from Odin’s Pledge, Henning Kure, 2006, is the paper that provides an alternate reading of the Voluspa.

It’s back!

I got my manuscript back this past week. The verdict? It’s good! In fact, it’s so good that I may have clawed back some production time — maybe get it published this summer or early fall versus year-end. Which means BK3 gets started that much sooner.

And, yes, I think I’m going to write BK3 before branching out into side stories. A complete three-book series is a better foundation to build on even if that third book will take a couple years to produce.

Spoilers ahead!

Srsly, I’m gonna spoil some stuff in broad strokes….

srsly.

yep.

OK.

High-level spoilers

Kinsmen Die established the conflict between Aesir and Jotunn while also working in the related players…the Svartalvar, the witches, the Norns and the wyrm. And it shows that Loki and his need for revenge is a key factor.

Among other things, Dark Grows the Sun puts that conflict with Loki on centerstage while stoking the conflict between Aesir and Jotunn as a backdrop.

Book Three is the culmination of all of the above. But, it is not Ragnarok…though it’s gonna feel like it. BK3 details the events that transform the Aesir and Jotunn and all the related players into the myths that we have today. Mostly.

Actual Ragnarok in my universe happens much later.

Related stories

After BK3, I have a quite a few books/stories in mind:

  1. One that dives into the Svartalvar via at least one POV character. At the moment, this story is both a prequel to Kinsmen Die and runs concurrent with those books. And, these books are mostly written (though they’d need heavy reworking).
    • The ultimate fate of these Svartalvar books depends on what I end up writing in Book 3.
    • Beyond the Svartalvar books I already have in mind, there’s a whole series I could write about my imagined civil war among the Alvar that ends up in the division between the Light Alvar and the Dark Alvar. This would be a prequel on the Aesir side to the Kinsmen Die books, but would enable me to dive into the Vanir gods — Freyr, Freyja, Njord, Skadi, etc.
    • My Vanir are very different culturally from my Aesir, so it’d be pretty refreshing to develop that sub-universe.
    • The Alvar, light and dark, are prominent in both KD and DGtS so it’d be a pretty easy to build off of those references.
    • And then there’s the Aesir-Vanir War. That’s at least one book right there. It’d be cooler to write that from the Vanir perspective, though.
  2. I have another book in mind (and partially written) that follows Vafthrudnir after Book 3. His story is interwoven with the Svartalvar and then ties back in with Odin’s at a later date.
  3. A series that deals with us humans, one in particular, that takes place in a near-future setting. A good chunk of this series is already written as a portal fantasy. And, this is the series that I could re-write in the lit-rpg genre and then blend back into fantasy / space opera. Maybe. There are some big downsides to genre blending not the least of which is subverting reader expectations in a bad way. I do have a cool idea for how to work it, though.
  4. And then I have the book about Hyrrokin which would fill in some detail about my Jotunn world. A solid chunk of it is written since I pulled it out of KD and DGtS. Her story pertains to the Jotunn worldbuilding some of which is alluded to in Dark Grows the Sun. Her timeline is concurrent with the Kinsmen Die trilogy…and then goes beyond it to tie in with Vafthrudnir’s story if I want to expand her story.
  5. I really like the part in Snorri that describes Hermod’s right down to meet Hel. Hermod’s entire plot was cut from Dark Grows the Sun, so I’ve a good framework for a standalone, short novel.
  6. And then there’s a whole series of books that become possible AFTER Ragnarok happens. Actually, that myth would be a good subject for a future blog post…particularly since I heavily reference it toward the end of DGtS.

But for all that to be written, I gotta get through the next couple books. So much to do…so little time 🙂

It’s away!

This morning I finalized the “first” draft of the Dark Grows the Sun (DGtS) manuscript and emailed it to my editor. Wewt!

The book clocked in at 87,390 words which is right about where I want it. I expect the final version (which is a long ways away) to be roughly the same word count.

The edits will be…

I’ve hired my editor to provide two rounds of developmental editing and one round of line editing. Parlance can vary, so here’s an overview of what I’m getting:

  • Developmental edit: recommendations for the underlying structure of the story, including plot, character motivations, conflict, point of view, dialogue, and more.
  • Line edit: line ­by ­line recommendations on usage and style, including extensive edits and comments designed to polish the writing while respecting and preserving individual voice and style.

Gonna take some time…

This is going to be a lengthy process. I’ll get the first round comments back by the end of January. (I want them now!) From there, we’ll figure out how long it’ll take to do the first revision. All of the editing on her end will take about 3 months (2 rounds of developmental plus 1 round of line at one month each).

So best case, I’ll be able to publish DGtS by year-end 2019 or maybe early 2020. We shall see.

A 3rd book? I don’t think so…

My “And the Heavens Burn” series will have a third book. But not for a while. There are two main reasons:

  1. KD isn’t selling (yet). I’m assuming DGtS won’t sell, either, UNLESS I do something different. I’ll be researching what to do this month (Jan 2018).
  2. I want to write different stuff…change it up a bit. Keep it fun.

And by different I mean…

I want to write shorter books that are focused around a single main character. By shorter I mean about 40K words.

A few reasons for that:

  1. It’ll be fun to dive into a single POV and run with it whether it’s written in first person or third-person limited.
  2. I think I can learn more by writing more, shorter books than fewer, longer books. I’d like to get better at POVs for one thing.
  3. Shorter books should take less time to write and cost less to edit. That means more books written in the roughly the same amount of time for roughly the same cost. (1 book @ $1200 editing costs versus 3 books at $400 editing costs per book. Numbers are for example only).
  4. Cover art! Covers are cool. Sure I’d be spending more on covers but there are some great premades out there for not a lot of cha-ching.
  5. With more books out there, I have more to market and bundle and sell.

Genre jumping

A few weeks ago, I knocked out a ~1200 word “chapter one” that’s best described as Lit-RPG. I don’t remember why I wrote it except that I was having exceptional trouble working on DGtS, my mind wandered and out came that lit-rpg story.

I sent it to a few friends and they liked the concept. Incidentally, the story was written in first person POV and it flowed quite naturally. Fun.

I don’t know if I’ll pick that story back up again, but it might be fun to tinker with. And I can leverage my existing magic system & worldbuilding.

I envision my Norse-inspired world on a continuum that runs from fantasy to sci-fi / space opera to dystopia / post-apocalypse. Heck, I could even do a thriller set in the Norse world. Or a Holmesian mystery.

So rather than shackle myself to a third epic fantasy, why not explore other genres? The writing needs to be fun!

Other characters…

I also have a few characters that I’ve cut from KD and DGtS whose stories I really want to explore. Hyrrokin tops the list. And I think her tale is perfect for a 40K book.

Vafthrudnir is another example. I cut him from DGtS, but his backstory could be a prequel. And his future adventures could bridge into the whole Jotunn story that I’ve only hinted at yet.

And then there’s my Svartalvar characters about whom I’ve written at least ~150K words — they’re mostly crap words, but hey, I really want to get to them. Their stories tie directly into the events in “And the Heavens Burn” trilogy and then go beyond it.

If I proceed linearly, then it’ll be a decade before I get to them. But if I go short and hop around, then I could publish their stories in a couple years.

That sounds a whole lot more fun. And, I really don’t want to just impact on the surface. Ouch.