Rohai to In Honor’s Shadow pt. 3

Previous Posts: Part 1, Part 2

Finally, after 3 posts, I get to finish this little tale. So far I’ve already covered the first “book” which I tabled before making massive changes, in addition to my tendency to let the story sit for absurd lengths of time. This is where I actually get to the real work.

Changes, Changes Everywhere

As you might expect, my rough draft was a complete mess. Perhaps the most noticeable (to me) was how my skill changed between the earlier chapters and the later ones, a product of how long the story took to make and how much I’d improved over that time. While seeing my improvement was nice, it made the book seem like it was written by different several people. The break was actually surprisingly sharp, happening somewhere around chapter 9.

Worse still, I was still telling the story from too many perspectives. It wasn’t nearly as bad this time, there was only one extra perspective, however it upset the story’s balance. There wasn’t always anything interesting to tell from the extra point of view, and I felt like using it would require doubling the length of some sections with little payoff.

Other problems were more subtle. By the time I finished the rough draft I had a better handle on character motivations and felt that some things needed to be fixed earlier on to help align them. In a few cases I needed to figure out why certain characters were doing what they were doing (beyond plot necessity), because they didn’t always make sense.

There were some other points I wanted to fix as well, but ultimately this all brought me to one conclusion: I needed a page one rewrite.

Back to the Keyboard

The rewrite took about a year and a half, though mostly because of other things going on in my life made it difficult to write for large stretches. When I finally got back into it, however, it was about six months of work. I’m not really sure what changed to take me from putting the book off to writing significant amounts each day, but my suspicion is that I found what I need from a working space. Once I had things set up properly it was much easier to fall into the business of actually writing.

Most of the extreme changes happened in the first half—I had actually realized that the extra character I was writing for was a problem while creating my rough draft and stopped writing for him in the later chapters. I especially took my time reworking the beginning because I wanted to make sure it captured the reader’s attention and set the overall tone for the rest of the book.

The plot remained the same overall, but I cleaned up the mess I had in the rough draft. Some characters had their roles expanded, others had theirs reduced. Many events had their details altered. There were also a couple new plot lines I initiated to help flesh out the events and characters.

Editing Everything

Although I was happy with the rewrite, experience told me that there would be a LOT of work in editing. I will try not to get too in-depth here, the exact details aren’t really relevant, but there were a few things that stuck out enough to address.

Perhaps the biggest was the realization that I had a completely redundant chapter, and that some of my newer plot threads felt rushed. Compared to the total rewrite the work required was much lighter, however it was significant enough to need several months to fix. A few sections were also rougher than I liked, which in some cases required massive structural changes.

The first editing pass caught the most egregious problem areas. The redundant chapter was completely rewritten with only the most necessary plot details retained. A couple other chapters also featured significant rewrites, mostly to change when certain events happened and help pacing in the later half of the story. In total I probably re-wrote about a quarter of the book to fix these issues, and in the process took the liberty of introducing one minor plot point I hadn’t previously considered but felt gave a nice impact to the ending.

More editing followed, but by then the structure was finally set and everything else was cleaning my prose. In some cases this required some rewriting, but now at a paragraph level in the very worst cases. Quite a bit of this stage was removing my personal verbal tics and any redundant words or phrases. My goal here was to make the writing easy to follow, giving it a flow that wasn’t interrupted by unnecessary complexity.

A Title at Last

It was also during my editing that I finally settled on a title. All this time I had continued to call my book Rohai because that is how I thought of it, but I also liked having a short way to refer to it instead of calling it “my book.” I realized it was time to start thinking about a real title because the last thing I wanted was to be scrambling to come up with something when the book was otherwise ready to publish.

Titles are hard. I rejected many ideas before I pulled out a sheet of paper and just started writing down every word that I associated with the book. Once I had a full page I started matching them together, looking interesting combinations. This process ultimately resulted in about a dozen titles that seemed plausible.

Vetting each of these was its own task. First, I ran them through a tool I’d stumbled upon which compared my title against the titles of popular books to give it a rating. In this instance I didn’t use it to knock a title out of the running (though I did jot down the rating for each one), but it proved useful for selecting between different iterations of titles that were otherwise identical. From here I was able to pair down the list to what I though were the best options and pick my favorite.

I then asked my friends what they thought about it, also presenting them with alternates without telling them which I preferred. Thankfully, people agreed with my choice, and I finally settled on the title In Honor’s Shadow.

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