As of 9:00 p.m. last night, I have completed principal writing on Vinestead Anthology book six, Brigham Plaza. It took about 11 months to finish the initial draft, rewrite several chapters, rewrite them again, and rewrite them once more until everything was just so. There is still a long way to go, but I won’t be making any more changes to the story. And there were so many changes. Some banal, some drastic, and some that tore at the very fabric of my soul.
I’m torn on beta readers, mostly because I haven’t figured out how to use them effectively yet. I’ve had them read initial zero drafts as I write them, which meant having to retcon and over-explain everything. I’ve had them read near-finished seventh drafts, which meant ignoring so much of their feedback because I didn’t want to go back and change major elements.
With Brigham Plaza, I brought readers in after the first draft, which meant they would read a story that was structurally sound in regards to overall continuity but was still young enough that anything and everything could be changed.
And boy, did people want things changed.
Some of the feedback I received was critical to the development of the book. Surprisingly, it was simple things like “who is X?” and “where is Y?” Notes like that directed me to explain for a new reader that Umbra is a city situated halfway between Sacramento and San Francisco. I went into more detail about the names I was throwing around, names like James Perion and Kenneth Barnes. If you don’t know who those people are, you don’t have to go read the other books first; Brigham Plaza will tell you.
Readers also pointed out some continuity gaffs: changes in hair color, mixing of technology, and timelines that didn’t quite line up. Fixes like that were easy to make.
Others were more difficult in the… ugh… artistic sense.
No Fucks Given
Do you know why so many characters in my books swear so often? It’s because profanity makes for easy dialogue. Instead of choosing an interesting way to say something, just use a swear and move on. I typically do this in the zero draft and never really go back and change it. Because that would be hard.
This became evident during one pass when I tried to remove all swears from a certain character, specifically her use of the F word. I was surprised to find that you can’t always drop in a replacement word and call it a day. Sometimes, you have to rewrite the whole sentence and say things differently so it sounds real. Not cursing takes self-control, so the dialogue has to communicate self-control.
But you know what? I like when people curse, especially in books and movies. It’s generally how I imagine my characters. The only reason I can stomach a reduction in swearing is because it creates separation between the characters… they don’t all curse like the same drunk sailor.
Rated R for Sexual Content
One of my beta readers said I wrote scenes in the book “just for myself.” This included a sexual assault, a threesome, a stripping assassin, multiple scenes in a virtual reality sex den, another stripping assassin, and so forth. It’s not every day that I’m accused of being a sexual deviant, but I did take a closer look at the scenes in question and ask myself how the sexual content related to the larger story.
More often than not, the extra nudity here and there didn’t really serve the story. It fit with what I thought a character might do, mostly because this is a work of fiction and characters can be as crazy as I want them to be. But I took the point: some people aren’t a fan of rampant nudity and three-paragraph descriptions of breasts.
Fine. We’re all different. I can accept that.
Now, looking at a draft of the story that hints more than it shows, I’m okay with the results. There were some things I needed to keep in the story (ugh, artistic choices), and the others will be available as DLC a few weeks after the book’s release.
As far as hard work goes, it’s all downhill from here. Editing is tedious but not very strenuous. It’s mostly cutting and smoothing. The worst part is listening to Microsoft David read the story in a lifeless monotone.
Oh, and if you love profanity and gratuitous nudity and demand my books be full of both, please leave a comment below.
Don’t worry about the ultra-violence. No beta readers mentioned it, and I wouldn’t have removed anything even if they did. #america