Dark Savior Rewrites Log #2 - Update
Back in January, I wrote three blog posts, which was much more than usual for me. Apparently, I was making up for the silence that was to come. Today, I thought I'd give an update on how the Dark Savior Series rewrites are going, and maybe detail the process a bit more.
First thing's first: Due to complications with the health of my editor, I decided that rather than a staggered re-release, I'd be putting out the new versions of the three books all at once. Currently, I'm aiming to do this in the late summer.
If you read my 2023 Author Goals, you're probably thinking, "Late summer? Didn't he want to get these done by June?" - Yup. Like most of my projects (And any independent project in general), the rewrites are taking longer than I thought. I always tell myself to add a month onto any estimate that I give... maybe it's time to start making it two or three. :P
So, why is it taking longer? To answer that question, we need to dive a little deeper into how my rewrite process works. Usually, the steps are as follows:
Copy/Paste a chapter of the original story into the "rewrite" Word doc.
Begin reading through said chapter, fixing any character perspective issues, inelegant variation, out-of-character dialogue, or typos found.
Delete any unnecessary parts of the chapter (Repetition, story elements that go nowhere, etc.)
Add descriptions and story elements if they will contribute to the plot.
After doing this for five straight chapters, go back and re-read those chapters to ensure that they fit and are easy to read.
I repeat the above steps until the first draft of the rewrite is finished. Then, I re-read the story yet again, to make sure there aren't any missed typos or plot elements that don't connect. After the second draft is complete, I send it to my editor. Back in March, I was doing just that, when I found out about her health issues and we put the edit on hold. Sometime in June, she plans to resume editing, which should still give her more than enough time to get those three edits done by the summer.
But the point is, as you can probably gather from my steps, that the rewrites are a long process. I had originally hoped to have Gold Fever done in three months, but it ended up taking me over four. There are many reasons for this, not the least of which is that the story was long, to begin with. Add the fact that it was my first novel, and there was plenty that needed fixing. Some sections were difficult to read, even if they didn't have head hopping or typos. They were just written awkwardly. So, even though I copy/pasted old chapters, many of them have almost completely different wording and phrasing in the rewrite.
Two of the most common criticisms that I noticed for Gold Fever were that some settings repeat too often, and the ending wasn't satisfying. To address the first criticism, I made sure to cut down on descriptions of environments that had already been passed through, and unless there was important dialogue, I sometimes skipped the parts where characters were walking through these environments for the second time. Outside of that, there's not much else I can do about that first criticism without changing the story, which I have no intention of doing. In regards to people taking issue with the ending, I believe that it stems from how it was written.
The final chapter and epilogue of the story feel rushed. I won't spoil anything, but the last chapter needed to be much more descriptive than it was. The epilogue was simply a summary of the aftermath. It felt more like a synopsis than a true ending. Looking back, I think that I was just excited to be "almost done" when writing the ending, and didn't take enough care. When I went back and edited, my mindset was more to look for typos and grammatical errors than fixing the story and structure.
So, this time, I added robust descriptions for the final chapter, and most importantly, the epilogue stays with the characters as the aftermath of their journey plays out. Even while writing these things, I could tell that the ending would be more satisfying; though a slight downside is that these additions made the book longer (About 225,000 words vs. 227,000).
Outside of everything mentioned above, another concern of mine while rewriting Gold Fever was to develop certain characters and their arcs a bit more. One goal was to make Joel, the main character, more relatable. The original version has its issues with perspective, but in addition, I had him keeping secrets from the other characters for unknown reasons to keep the mystery portion of the plot going for a little while. The result, unfortunately, was Joel feeling unrelatable. Yet, when I think of what happens in this story, he should be the most relatable character of the bunch!
Throughout Gold Fever, Joel is insulted, threatened, beaten up, and shunned (Even by friends, at some points!); all because he refuses to go along with the crowd. Because he continues to say and suggest unpopular things that he knows are correct. He does this not out of pride or being a contrarian, but to help the very people who do not appreciate him. Joel represents rugged individualism in direct opposition to the mob; to dangerous group-think. I think that it easily relates to what we see in everyday life in 2023, don't you? ;)
What really helps capture the relatability of Joel in this rewrite is the fact that he can't speak, and only a few other characters can understand sign language. I'm sure many of us have been in a situation where we've felt like we didn't have a voice. It applies to so many things, and so I leveraged his internal struggle with keeping secrets while also wanting to help, this time around. I think that it makes him even more of an underdog that you'd like to see come out on top when the dust settles.
While I was happy with the arcs of the other main characters in the original story, there was a secondary character that I wanted to give the rewrite treatment. Henic is Joel's estranged neighbor in Gold Fever, and the first time around, it felt like I gave him the "guy who stumbles into becoming the mentor" role. But to me, there was something more there that could still be brought out, and that was Henic's avoidance of confrontation. It was only a minor part of his character in the original story, but in the rewrite, it takes center stage. I delved into his backstory a little more, and how he tries to keep to himself, hoping it will take eyes off of him and his farm during hard times. But as he finds out, trouble comes to find him, and in that situation, he can either stand and fight or accept a bitter fate.
With Gold Fever finished in March, I got to work on the sequel, Seven Seals. Currently, I'm a little over 2/3rds of the way through the first edit. I had initially wanted to be finished with this one in two months, but... it's already been that long, so now I'm shooting for three. Aside from the aforementioned rewrite method, I'd underestimated how much work needed to go into the edit. While Seven Seals is better-written than the original release of Gold Fever, it's still rough around the edges. Some sections are awkward to read, and there's far too much telling where there should be showing. These, along with perspective fixes, have taken up a lot more time than I was planning.
Yet, each time I look back at the previous five chapters as part of my rewrite method, I always feel better about the new version. With that said, there are some things that the rewrite will not address. I have to admit that the plot of Seven Seals has always had me a bit on edge. No one has ever complained about it to me, but I can't help but worry that its structure will turn some people away. Gold Fever was focused on one setting. Characters got split up sometimes, but they always had the same goals, and Mt. Couture was always the setting. Seven Seals, on the other hand, follows different characters who split up for two very different goals and in separate settings. I fully realize that this has the potential to feel disorienting and even incomplete when it comes to the ending.
This is because the rough draft version of Seven Seals was going to be far longer. The characters were going to split up and pursue their goals in different lands before meeting back up in a big city called Endoshire for their final confrontation with the antagonist. The thing is, the final act of that story felt extremely rushed. Half of the characters hadn't even met some of the villains they'd be fighting, and I had planned on introducing a bunch of new ones, too. I quickly realized that the final act needed to be much longer; so much that it was no longer an act of a story, but an entire story on its own! It ended up becoming the third book in the series: A Gathering of Strangers.
There are upsides to having branching paths in the story, though. The two settings give variety and are paced in such a way that I don't think readers will ever tire of them. Bosfueras leans heavily into the horror aspects of dark fantasy, while Thironas will draw more comparisons to epic or traditional fantasy. Another positive to Seven Seals' structure is that it really opens up the Dark Savior world. The claustrophobic spaces in Mt. Couture were oddly comforting to me when I first wrote the book; because while I had plenty of ideas for the book's world and how it worked, I worried about inconsistencies, lack of eye-catching details, having a world that didn't make sense, and much more. Seven Seals sort of helped me come out of the shell, so to speak. My greatest hope, with this rewrite, is that all of its settings will have interesting, if logical, cultures that can captivate the reader enough that they'd like to revisit that place in future stories.
I am also trying to draw out more development from some main and side characters in Seven Seals, but as I'm still in the process, I think it can wait until the next log. I've been prattling along for long enough! I think that I'll cut it off here.
I may post a short blog soon about the greatest struggle of all when it comes to rewrites: Talking about it. Boy, oh boy, do people lose interest fast when they hear you're rewriting something! I'd also like to start getting into the financials of the rewrite, as, despite some hiccups, my goals are still the same. I want to make a profit this year, and I'd like to display my progress as the months go by.
So, look out for those blog posts soon (Hopefully). Until then, I'll be hard at work with the rewrites... and maybe playing some of that new Zelda game, too. :D