Note: This is an old piece brought forward. The book I was working on at the time was The King’s Sacrifice, book 2 in the Khekarian series, and is now published.
One good long scream saw the morning in. Some days are like that. Then I had two cups of coffee and stared at the computer as though blaming it for everything. After that, I backed up my file in a separate place because I was about to hack to pieces a good half of my manuscript to date. The thought of discovering that, no, this doesn’t work either and I’d have to put it all back together again was too daunting. Backup would restore all if necessary.
I suppose I ought to explain.
Writing is like weaving. It really is. I like to run with three threads at a time, side by side in each chapter. Sometimes, by necessity, I run with two, sometimes with four, both rare. Most often, it’s three.
The Khekarian Series tells a story that reaches across the galaxy, sometimes the storyline running side by side, far, far away from each other. So then the chapters alternate, evens picking up one side of the galaxy and odds telling what’s happening at the other. Each side, of course, with three different threads. Or two or four.
That means with each book, I’m handling up to eight threads, but usually six, all needing to be interwoven and balanced with each other. Some threads merge together, others split, so there’s flexibility going on, too. In all of this, timing is important. When the whole story is racing forward over days and weeks – theirs, not mine – then each side (evens and odds) just takes the story forward, it doesn’t matter. But when one side slows down to the hours in a day and the next segment will also be there, you can’t have a different chapter in the middle of that racing forward by weeks. You end up with a “hang on a minute” realization that one side has covered a vast period of time while the other has dragged forward only a day.
It will not do! That balance really is important. Well, for me, anyway.This applies to the individual threads within each chapter as well as between the chapters themselves. One segment cannot move forward unless all segments up to that point have let go of the moment.
Sounds complicated? It can be. What happens, though, if one thread gets out of sync? I’ll tell you. I’ve recently had exactly that slowing me down. Nothing really important (I thought), I just had to keep reworking it, one thread not quite sitting in place.
Yep. Sevi giving me trouble again. Why is it always Sevi? Every time I reworked her thread where it was, something else popped out of line. Every time I thought I had it, I found instead I hadn’t.
Last weekend, I realized that I was going about it all wrong. I couldn’t just fiddle with the problem, it wasn’t going to go away. I had tried every variation there was, so there was nothing else left to try, as it was.
No, I had to lift the entire thread out, not just the half I had been poking around with, and move the whole thing along. In other words, major surgery. Trouble with that is all the places it plugged into gets tugged out of line, too. It’s that balancing thing, that impeccable timing with everything else. Shift Sevi, and the whole timing thing has to be reworked, she’s one thread side by side with two others. No, I couldn’t shift the others as well, that doesn’t solve anything. Just Sevi. So, although I couldn’t shift the others, I still had to work them to keep them in balance.
I saw the nightmare looming. That’s when I screamed. My Beloved ducked for cover, convinced my “Arrrrgh” moment had just tacked an extra month or two of labor onto the project.
People think writers just sit down and write. That it’s a quiet occupation. I don’t know where they get that idea from.
Well, after that scream and my cups of coffee, I had no choice but to get on with it. So, I did. That little chore filled the entire weekend. I lifted and rewove and rebalanced Sevi and the timing, completely reworking chapter 9, chapter 11, chapter 13, chapter 15, chapter 17 and chapter 19. Yesterday (Monday in Australia), I finished nailing that thread down in chapter 21, chapter 23 and am off and running in chapter 25.
Whew! It was a busy weekend, but actually easier than I thought. Sevi’s thread slipped into its new place quite nicely, the threads surrounding it proving to only need the odd tweak here or there to support it in place. Really, that spot was made for it.
That was a really nice moment. Series of moments, I should say, as each bit plugged in so well and the manuscript was sewn back together in a slightly new form.
It could have been a nightmare. It turned out to be exactly what was needed. So far, it looks good. Nothing has popped up out of whack anywhere else. It’s holding. I’m breathing easier. The decision paid off and did not waste me a month or more. Quite the opposite, it means I’m not wasting time fiddling with the damn thing. I can get back to writing in the creative sense, not the editing sense.
I’ve still got some months ahead of me before the deadline. I still think I’ll make it.