It's done. The third draft of Two Earths Are Better Than None is complete. Phew. That took a while.
That wasn't because of any problems. If anything, quite the opposite. I was so happy with the story itself, I felt the need to polish everything. There was hardly a paragraph that went unchanged.
The biggest surprise was the word count – it's increased from 102,830 to 110,165. That's my longest novel so far. I wouldn't have believed it would go above 90,000 when I started, but the characters had a different opinion.
It hangs together so much better now, with important themes introduced earlier and allowed to grow slowly. I already had some characters referencing pop culture (especially Star Trek, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, and Marvel movies), and I've gone full in on that. I've even had the alien ship captain invent a role-playing game for the characters called Star-Lord of the Enterprise Wars. You've got to be there.
Before discussing what comes next, I'll break down the changes part by part, letting you see how things evolved from the second draft.
11,284 words (was 11,115 words)
Nothing too significant here, a rename of a chapter and the addition of a couple of small details of the alien's arrival that will be built upon in part two.
31,723 words (was 31,288 words)
Part two was where the most significant changes occurred, although you might not realise that from the word count. It makes more sense when you realise that most of the last chapter in the second draft has now been moved to part three.
The second half of part two had the most work, changing the chapter splits, and writing a new scene to make things flow better, which turned two chapters into three. You start to learn of the Esperia in this part now, which previously happened at the end of part three. Much better.
This is also where the aforementioned role-playing game, Star-Lord of the Enterprise Wars, comes to the fore, replacing some important, yet dull, scenes. Teases some crucial references for later. I am Groot.
29,734 words (was 24,564 words)
As you can see, there's one extra chapter now, the reworked version of what used to make up most of the last chapter in part two. I've rejigged the chapter breaks too, to give each a more specific purpose in the story.
The big infodump you used to get in "The Skein Is Not Enough" (no, it's not a James Bond movie) is more palatable now, having introduced the Esperia earlier. It's still the point when you realise what the story might be about. That's confirmed in the final chapter.
18,073 words (was 17,801 words)
This part has been renamed, mainly because the Hegemony no longer exists (it was a silly name for something that didn't even need naming). Now the Esperia have been around for longer, they get their time in the sun. There are a lot of minor simplifications and dialogue improvements that keep the story fun just as it turns dark. This is where y'all meet Tex and Fifi. Merde.
19,351 words (was 18,062 words)
All the small changes throughout have been building up to this point, making the denouement more in keeping with the bulk of the story. Disruptors! Phasers! Gandalf! (sort of)
What Comes Next?
The next step is to create a "final draft". I'll do one final, careful read-through in a couple of days. I'll resist the temptation to change anything unless it's clearly wrong. Typos, clumsy phrasing and unclear text, will be the main focus, plus looking for any plot holes I've accidentally introduced during the third draft.
Once that's done, I'll prepare a submission package to see if I can get a literary agent interested in taking this on. I've already got the first draft of my synopsis and cover letter, but they'll need tweaking and customising for each agent. I've got my short list of agents ready too.
I'll allow about three months for this process to see if I get any bites, a bit longer if I've had some tentative interest. If not, I'll plough ahead at self-publishing the novel, probably at some point in October. It depends on how things are going.
One final thing of (possible) interest. Now that I've given the novel its own page on my website, I decided to try something new. I'm not a great fan of most of the current phase of AI stuff that's come along, but I wanted to try AI image generation to help me visualise my characters. It definitely helped get them straight in my mind ahead of the third draft.
You can see them below and in more detail on the web page. I've started doing this for the characters in my next novel, Fractal Peace. It helps stimulate my creative brain.