I've now completed the first draft of part 1 of my next novel, Scouring Juventas. Well, that threw up a few surprises.
I last provided an update when I did my now traditional review after three chapters (and the interludes). Everything seemed to be going well – until I reached midway through chapter 4. Then things went off the rails for a bit, and the train ground to a halt.
It took a couple of days to work out what the problem was – I was telling the wrong story. Well, not so much the wrong story, as telling the story wrongly. The issue was with the prelude/interludes (AKA the Duties), not the three chapters I'd already written.
These duties effectively provide the backstory for the planet of Juventas, but I'd committed the cardinal sin of telling it in chronological order. That meant I was giving the game away in the prelude, or at least conceding a few own goals before I'd even started.
Luckily, the solution was pretty straightforward. I reordered the Duties, which only needed minor reframing in most cases. The second Duty is now called Preparation, and I had to chop out half of its original content and expand the remaining significantly. The culled portion will eventually resurface in part 3.
That leaves me with the following structure for the novel:
Part 1: The Outage
Part 2: The Election
Part 3: The Discovery
Part 4: The Judgement
Once that was done, the rest of part 1 flowed nicely. The only change I made to its structure from the review update was to rename the final chapter and push a little of its content into part 2. It ended up looking like this:
It was slightly longer than I expected, coming in at just over 22,000 words. With the Duties, that make the first draft currently 27,500 words long.
Now, it's time for part 2. I've changed my thoughts on this a little since my initial review, primarily driven by how my characters misbehaved and wouldn't do what I wanted in part 1. There will now be six chapters, as follows:
There's one more task before I get started on it though. I always knew there was a hole in Jess Kimber's motivations in part 1, but I deliberately left it as a placeholder until I got to know the character better. Even though you think you know them inside out, they always surprise you once they fully spring into life.
At the start of the novel, she's about to leave her prestigious job without anything else lined up. There are multiple reasons feeding into this (loosely based on my own experience of doing exactly the same thing back in 2016) but there was a gap in what she intended to do afterwards. I knew that wouldn't be important until part 2, but luckily she's now told me what her plans were all along.
It won't take long, but I now need to go back and drizzle that into the narrative in two or three places in part 1 so that its full flavour comes to the fore in part 2.
Yes, that's another tweaked cover above, just to see if I like it better in green. It's better than the first version, I think, but I'm still leaning towards blue as the best option. I expect I'll have finalised the colour scheme before I come back for the update at the end of part 2. Watch this space.