Slightly faster than anticipated, I've now completed the second draft of Scouring Juventas and sent it off to my expert beta reader. I've added a page for Scouring Juventas on my website (screenshot above), including a preview of the current draft of the opening three chapters. This is likely to be significantly changed before I've finished, but it should give you a feel for the story, the world and the primary characters.
That was a fascinating edit process. As I mentioned last time, this novel turned out longer than I anticipated, at 100,000 words, so I was keen to hunt out padding, sharpen up the wording, and trim it to fit my original expectations. The sharpening went pretty well, although I expect I'll do even more in the next draft after feedback and a break to give me a fresh outlook, so I'm pleased to announce that after the second draft, the novel is now down to... 103,750 words.
Oh dear. There is a good reason for that, honest.
Most of the expansion was in the opening chapters. In the first draft, I introduced two characters largely as short-term plot devices and didn't fully flesh them out. They needed to be there to fill a hole in the way the story kicked off, but I had no plan for them to live on much longer.
Instead, they kept butting back into the story, ending up being critical to its resolution, even if in the background. Although their characterisations had settled down after about the first quarter, they desperately needed setting up better and to have their own secondary developmental arcs. That required a significant rework of the opening chapters.
I'd also neglected to sufficiently introduce the characters taking part in the exploratory mission. That needed to happen in the opening three chapters to set the basis for the dynamics that drove half of the story. I also realised that I'd missed one key scene from the novel – the actual departure of the mission. I added a new scene that fixed things nicely, allowing me to use the threads I'd introduced more satisfyingly.
More than half the time of the second draft was spent on the first quarter of the novel, but once that was fixed, the rest held up surprisingly well. So what's next, you may ask?
While awaiting feedback, which is likely to be a month or more (which is good - the break gives my mind the chance to forget enough that I'll be coming at it fresh), I'll begin the preparing the next steps.
I've not decided yet whether I'll submit this to see if I can find an agent to get it traditionally published. I'll see how I feel after feedback. However, I will prepare the submission in case I do. That's partly because the novel turned out quite differently from my original elevator pitch, so writing a 500-word synopsis might help discover whether I've overcooked the story in a few areas. That will give me more ammunition for the third draft.
In parallel, I'll also prepare all the steps to self-publish Scouring Juventas. As before, I'll likely make it exclusive to Amazon for three months before rolling it out more widely. Writing the blurb will also force me to look at the story through different eyes, leading to ideas for the next edits.
If there's time, I'll then start the early phases of the final (for now) Muffler novel, The Muffler's Misery. I need to re-read the last book, look at my plans for this new one, double-check it still holds together, then start work. First, I'll write a couple of short stories set between the novels to be added to my collection Mutterings of Consequence. That will help me get my mind back into the world before starting the novel. I don't intend to start writing The Muffler's Misery in earnest until I've completed Scouring Juventas.
I also have an idea for a sort-of-sequel short story to both Scouring Juventas and The Muffler's Misery. I might attack that one too, so I have a correct focus on the end goal of this new novel. That's set after Scouring Earth, the short story that's also a sequel to Scouring Juventas.
Right, that's enough wittering. I'll be back when I have clarity on the third draft plans.