I had a bit of a crumble last week, here at Solarversia Towers. Everything was chugging along nicely – I was in the middle of writing chapter 18, about halfway through the third quarter – when I received an email from my editor. We’ve been working together on a chapter-by-chapter basis and it’s been going really well. Her feedback has been invaluable in making it a far better book.
This time the email contained some feedback about deeper structural issues, following a synopsis I had written for someone who works at a film company, who I’m in the very early stages of talking with. It was the synopsis that highlighted the weaknesses in the story to my editor, and led her to write to me.
It was difficult reading, mainly because I knew in my heart that everything she was saying was correct, even if it did mean that I’d have to rework a significant portion of what I’d already written. But because I knew she was 100% correct, and because her feedback has been so prescient and spot on, every single time, it wasn’t something I shied away from addressing. The problem was that the three sub-plots weren’t interwoven with the main narrative tightly enough:
- Main Plot: Nova the protagonist playing Solarversia, the year-long game
- Sub Plot 1: Artica and the team at Spiralwerks, the company behind the game
- Sub Plot 2: The Holy Order of Innocents, the neo-luddite terrorist organisation attacking companies like Spiralwerks
- Sub Plot 3: The characters in Castalia, Emperor Mandelbrot’s flying palace – the fictional characters created by Spiralwerks
The sub-plots touched on the main narrative – and one another – at the start, and at the climax, but apart from that they mostly led their own lives. They tickled each other, rather than being deeply inter-connected parts of the same whole. And that also meant that the climax itself was weak – the reader just didn’t care enough. I pulled out the main points from the email, great advice, whatever story you’re writing:
- Raise the stakes – They need to be really high
- I think we need the evil baddies (HOI) to be more evilly bad and to have much greater effect in the novel. Nova has to save the world from the HOI
- Winning itself has got to mean something really, really big
- In a story about a game, something in the real world needs to be affected – otherwise, things fall a little flat
I’m meeting her tomorrow at our usual spot in the British library. I’m positive that she’s going to love the developments I’ve made since her email. Hopefully, the book is in far better shape now. The feedback of a good editor is priceless.