As of Tuesday, I completed my third novel. 92,316 words in 84 days is pretty good going, though this is of course a first draft and there is a lot of editing yet to do. But that’s what I’m happiest about. It’s messy, yes, but this third work is easily my strongest to date. For the first time I feel like I have something that can be fixed with only editing, not a scrap and rewrite like the last two. So what’s changed?

The Fury is easily the most character-driven piece I’ve written, and that alone is a major shift from the plot- and world-focus I’ve had in previous works. writing with such a tight focus on a single character for such a sustained period was certainly challenging. I tend not to write particularly emotional scenes, but here that became necessary. It was, after all, a tale of love and betrayal. The main problem I found was that in these emotional scenes I kept treading the same ground time after time. Often, it felt as though I was simply wheelspinning. The biggest lesson learned here is that I still have a lot to improve on.

As part of my ongoing practice of pushing my own boundaries with each book I write, this one was in the present tense. I’m not generally a fan of reading in the present tense, but – a few slips aside – I found it remarkable easy to employ. What I like about this method most is that it allows for a more dispassionate approach to description. There’s a sense of real distance between writer and reader, but there’s also a closeness between reader and action. I was surprised to find how easy it was to alternate between the immediacy of conflict and the slower, more matter-of-fact description that can be done in the present tense. While I’m likely to revert to past tense for whatever I write next, I’m fairly sure I’ll continue to use present tense in shorter works.

One thing I still find myself doing is describing every movement of a character in a scene. Yes, this breaks up dialogue nicely, but it also becomes quite a mess as I track the individual steps of each characters. I firmly believe this is a hangover from my time running RPGs, where movement must be tracked, but as a writer it’s a frustrating tic to have to work around or be rid of. writing the dialogue itself remains my favourite part of the endeavour, but I need a nother way to frame it instead of endless – ‘he stepped to the left’ etc. I also need to find action scenes that are not shootouts in warehouses, but that’s a discussion for another day.

So what comes next? Well, to be honest, I’m not entirely sure. The Fury is currently sitting with a beta reader, and I want to get another first draft of a new project complete before I come back and edit this one. I have a few ideas floating around, but nothing concrete at the moment. Perhaps I should ease back from the pure SF and give that steampunk idea a go? Or do I plunge headlong into some of my more ambitious ideas, now that I have the practise? One way or another, I’m hoping to be back to writing very soon.

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