At 9.38 last night I hit send on an email which dispatched copies of A Protocol for Monsters to my publishers in New York and Sydney. I spent most of the day doing a final read through, a tweak here, a touch up there, and probably could have kept at it for hours more, if not days and weeks. A book is never really finished, it is merely abandoned.
I can already think of two quite crucial scenes I want to rejig, but the changes won't be structural.
This is where I hope all of the work I've done over the past couple of months, and especially those two weeks in Byron Bay, will pay off. I have most of the books blocked out, with the narrative arcs already laid down in note form and all of the major pivot points in the story settled. I even know how the third book ends.
What happens next is about two months of high intensity 'writing', by which I mean dictation. How many words a day? Depends on how many distractions and disruptions I allow or endure, but even if I'm only at the screen for the duration of the school day, I'll be looking to put down at least five to 6000 words each day. A lot of the time I'm working from detailed notes. A chapter running to 3000 words might already exist in dot point form at a length of 1000 words.
It might seem like a wasted effort, but you can take it from me that nothing accelerates your progress like knowing where the hell you're going and exactly how to get there.
The biggest challenge with these books remains having only one point of view; Dave, the narrator. It's a hell of a different way to tell a story for me. Everything that happens has to happen within his light cone. I have a couple of ways of working around it, which I'm not going to give away here, but I can't overuse them. And even when I do they only solve one very particular set of problems. There's a whole bunch of others that come with singular point of view narratives.
The two most difficult? When you're used to understanding your characters by writing them, by writing from within their POV, when you stand outside and merely observe them from a narrator's point of view you can find yourself as perplexed to their motivations as any other character in the book. I forget which Hollywood mogul said it, but some Hollywood mogul once said nobody knows nothing about anything. That could be an almost perfect explanation for how point of view works. Characters know what they know, and nothing else. They know themselves, and sometimes not even that.
I had a character in this book who'll become important over the course of the series, and I just didn't understand her. I didn't understand her, Dave Hooper our unworthy hero didn't understand her, and most crucially of all she didn't seem to understand herself. All because I wasn't able to write from within her character.
How did I get around this?
In the end I had to write a whole bunch of chapters which I could never use. Chapters which retold the story as it will be published in the book, but this time from her POV. It was only after doing that, and deciding to give her one important personality quirk, that I was able to make her work to my satisfaction.
The other difficulty?
The only action you can directly tell the reader about, the only stuff you can show them, is the action in which your narrator plays a direct role. This becomes entirely problematic when writing battle scenes, or at least it does for me. The bigger and more complex the scene, the more I want to describe it from multiple points of view and angles. But even more complicating was the extreme agency invested in the lead character, Dave. If you have a guy who is effectively a superhero you instantly solve every tricky situation into which you inject him unless he lands on a big pile of kryptonite. You can do that once, but it gets old quickly.
Most of the rewriting of the first draft, a process in which Murph's input was invaluable, had to do with sorting out the battle/action scenes. If you go back through my previous books you will see most of the major conflicts are recounted from at least two or three points of view. And sometimes many more than that. That simply wasn't possible in this novel and many long months went into figuring out how to deal with that.
Anyway, it's all done now I was reading the final scenes yesterday afternoon and was delighted by just how much I enjoyed them. Now it's time to get on and do another two books worth.