The first draft of Scouring Juventas is complete! It's done. It's always a sense of achievement to reach this point, even though there's still a long way to go. I need to engage my analytical brain for the next bit though, so my creative brain can have a short rest.
Part 5 worked out largely as I expected. I did rename it from the overly melodramatic The Shadow, so it's now simply The Truth, but it did stay with the same four chapters.
The last two chapters were somewhat longer than I anticipated, which meant part 5 ended up at 13,750 words. It definitely helped me wrap the loose ends up nicely. That gives me a grand total of just over 100,000 words at the end of the first draft – much longer than I anticipated when I set out.
So what's next? Well, I'm taking a day or two's break to catch up with the housework I've been neglecting during the last couple of weeks so that I could keep up the momentum once I entered the home straight. I'll give this novel its own page on my website ready too. Then it'll be on with the second draft.
Although I've done daily line-by-line edits, I'll be performing a careful read-through of the novel and repeating this process to make everything a little more punchy. I'll be looking out for a little duplication here and there, where I revealed something early, then did it again. I think I've caught most of those, but I'm sure something slipped through the net. The most critical thing here is to ensure I've revealed things in a coherent fashion after shuffling the interludes around during the first draft.
I have a list of more substantive changes I need to make. Most of these concern individual characters arcs that need tweaking, especially in the early stages before things had settled down. This is less about the two main protagonists than the primary supporting characters. These just wouldn't behave and had a mind of their own, so I'll make sure their motivations are right from the start now.
Two supporting characters in particular ended up being more important than I anticipated. They weren't in my plans at all before I started writing and were created out of necessity as plot devices in the first couple of chapters. Then they just wouldn't keep out of the story, no matter how hard I tried. I need to do them justice from the outset.
The Duties – the prelude, interludes and postlude – need a little work too, but I'd always anticipated that. I wrote them first to help frame the story, which was a great decision, even though I moved them around. The action in them is fine, but a tonal correction is needed now that their place in the story is finalised. I never anticipated that the Duty I wrote as the prelude would end up as a chapter during the finale either! I'm going to attack this first in the second draft.
If it's like my previous second drafts, for every bit I cut out, usually around 10%, I end up putting the same amount back in. A lot of that will be fleshing out descriptions that I neglected in my rush to tell the story.
I'll also be reviewing and updating the sequel short story, Scouring Earth, that will be included in the next edition of my free collection, Mutterings of Consequence. I'll report back once that is all done.
And yes, that's my currently planned cover for Scouring Juventas above, assuming I self-publish. I'll make a decision about that once I've received beta feedback on my second draft when I'll consider whether to approach agents this time. I'm delighted how it turned out and was definitely the story I wanted to write. I'll know better once I've knocked it into shape!