Tuesday 31 March 2009

Yes, it is exactly what it looks like: a Prologue written over 3 years after the 1st chapter.

No, this is not an April Fool’s Day joke, though it almost was. :-)

You see, the Random Chapter button, plus the bookmarking thing, has caused me to reread a lot of really old chapters that I haven’t read in — literally — years. And a lot of them are, shall we say, not up to my current level of writing. Even my own voice has changed, not to mention those of the characters themselves. There are also a few errors — things I’d forgotten I’d written about and contradicted in later chapters.

For a long time my intention was to leave all that behind me and excuse myself from revising. In a sense that was a good thing because it would have bogged me down early on and I never would have gotten as far as I have.

On the other hand I can’t help but think that it must turn a few potential readers off. Reading nearly 2 million words is a huge investment, and unless you’re really bored or — I flatter myself perhaps — capable of sniffing out a good story in spite of the shoddy writing, the first few dozen chapters just aren’t going to hook you in.

Maybe you who are reading this won’t agree, but that’s true by definition — you wouldn’t be here if you hadn’t been hooked by some mysterious force. So humor me. :-)

Here is what I’m going to do.

First of all, I don’t intend to stop moving forward with the story. For the most part, revising and rewriting is something I can do with less brain power, so I can save that for moments when I would otherwise sit and click on LOLcats and the bottom-​​barrel feeds in my Bloglines. For the most part it shouldn’t take away from 1085 story-​​writing or picture-​​taking at all.

However, there will be a few new chapters coming out of this effort, such as the Prologue you’ve probably just read. Those will take time, but then again they’re still NEW! CHAPTERS! and also give us a chance to see beloved characters like Matilda again, so everybody wins.

In the first phase I plan to entirely replace the first three chapters — “The Story Begins”, “King Sigefrith and Queen Maud”, and “The Families”.

If you’ve read the Prologue you can already see that the days of “The Story Begins” are numbered, but I will want to work in a few mentions of Hastings and William the Conqueror elsewhere so everyone starts out with a vague idea of where we are geographically and historically. So “The Story Begins” will stay up for now.

For the other two chapters, I plan to replace them with a small series of chapters that introduce the characters in a “show don’t tell” fashion. That is such a cliché but it is nevertheless so important, and so missing from my early chapters.

I have come to the conclusion that Royal Kingdom Challenges are actually a rather unfortunate platform for launching a story, since the reader has to get to know a whole swarm of characters at once. (Unlike a Legacy challenge, say, where your focus is on the one character. If I remember how Legacies work, that is.)

In just about every RKC story I’ve read there’s always this painfully long “Who is this guy again?” period while I’m trying to learn the names and faces, so my work is cut out for me here. I am blessed with a crew of truly memorable characters, so my goal (even if ultimately unattainable) is to make a new reader really get them sorted out right away. Like, “Hell yeah, that’s Matilda!” by Chapter Five.

To that end, every family that shows up in the “The Families” post is going to get a chapter showing some scene from when they decide to move to Lothere, or something from that time period, rather than just having those one-​​paragraph summaries. Go read “The Families” again if you don’t see what I mean about awkward, yawn-​​worthy little one-​​paragraph summaries.

I also plan to have a chapter showing the never-​​before-​​seen “Sigefrith meets Maud in the garden” episode, and possibly also a scene showing how he contrived to get her uncle to let him marry her.

And I intend to rewrite and definitely re-​​photograph the chapter where Finn is stolen by the elves. Those elves don’t even look like my elves.

Aside from those plans, I don’t have any definite plans to recreate anything else or add any other new chapters. I do plan to reread every chapter and revise as needed to fix story contradictions, clean up the writing so that it at least doesn’t make me cringe, and make sure the characters are consistent with what they turned out to be. (A danger of making up a story as you go I guess.) For instance, I want to get Eirik speaking his pidgin English from the beginning, and remove any remaining traces of Hetty using (*gasp!*) contractions.

If anyone has any thoughts or complaints or reservations about these ideas, I’d love to know. For one thing, is it even worth saving these old chapters in some form… like an “archives” section or something? I want to keep the events and spirit of those chapters intact (like Sigefrith’s memorable quote from the new prologue and old first chapter) so ideally it wouldn’t even be necessary, but we’ll see.

And I will entertain suggestions about additional forgotten “early years” events I ought to write chapters about, but be forewarned I probably won’t deviate from my plans as far as that goes. I really want to keep the 1085 end moving forward, so I don’t want to spend too much time on this side project. Not even to indulge my own cravings to see a few more moments of Alred + Matilda love. *sigh*

Also, what’s the best way to announce new /​ revised chapters so you’ll find them? Is having them appear at the top of the front page enough? (They’ll be in RSS of course for those of you using that.) Should I post a note here or in the forum?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed the Prologue. I turned off comments on that chapter for now because I knew it was going to be OMG BABY VASH! spoiler central for the next few days if I didn’t. ;-)

I have to say, it was really uncanny and even moving for me to see a sadly smiling, stubble-​​chinned adult Vash in the banner while just below it was a giant picture of five-​​year-​​old Vash squealing at his Mommy. Someone just commented on Verity’s blog that she has a hard time seeing her Sims as sexual, and that thought really gave me pause. I have a hard time seeing them as not real.