Twelve Kings Update
In fall of last year, I finished up the first draft of Twelve Kings in Sharakhai. I promptly sent it off to beta readers. The feedback I got made me realize that one of the primary goals of the series wasn’t working. I had hoped to tell an epic tale from a single point of view. Çeda is my main character. She’s a pit fighter. She’s an orphan. She’s a young woman who hopes to bring down the Twelve Kings, at first for what they did to her mother, but eventually for broader reasons.
And that word, right there, broader, that’s the trouble with a single POV and an epic backdrop. Epic fantasy is broad. It’s grand. It covers a lot of ground. The outcomes affect many lives. There are many interests at play, many plots and subplots. And telling all that from a single POV has been difficult, to say the least. I won’t go so far as to say it’s impossible, but for me, for this particular tale, I wasn’t getting as much of the information across as I wanted. Too much about the other threads in the tale was going unseen, which either made it confusing when Çeda wasn’t there to see it (forcing me to shoehorn it into her thread so the reader could learn of it) or awkward when I tried to get Çeda into a place and time where she could experience it firsthand. In other words, telling a grand tale from a single POV wasn’t working.
So I decided to break things down a bit and rebuild. This boiled down to adding a few new threads that told the other parts of the story, but it was really for more than this as well. Certain characters, Çeda’s best friend, Emre, being the prime example, needed more fleshing out so that the reader cared about them. There were other threads—those of the Twelve Kings and their machinations—also needed some illumination. Doing this now sets up the rest of the series for broader scope and multi-POV as well, so I thought it especially important to set that precedent.
Draft 2 has been going well. The toughest sections have been the beginning and the end. I restructured the opening a bit, moving chapters around to start at a point I felt was more dynamic and more true to the beginning of the story. Altering the opening of a story always leads to information presentation problems. In the beginning of any story, you’re setting so many things up that are later relied upon as a foundation. For example, you’ll describe what a hobbit hole is when you start a tale, but you won’t do so again, other than to embellish what a particular hobbit hole looks like. You’ll describe what a hobbit is and is not, but not again to any great detail unless it’s to describe a particular hobbit. And so on. You’re revealing your world in bits and pieces, and that information is relied upon by you and the reader for later scenes. So when you alter the opening, all sorts of things have to get unexplained on one place and re-explained in another.
Also, certain events are no longer in the same order, which causes all sorts of rework. Suffice it to say that the rewrite of the opening was a fair bit of work, but it’s done. The middle sections were not as much of a challenge, but there was a lot of writing to add. Emre had a new POV. So did Ramahd, a lord from a neighboring Kingdom. And so, oddly enough, did Çeda. Her younger life needed to be fleshed out, first and foremost because it added to the overall tale. There were a lot of revelatory things that would be used later on. But also character things. Her love for Emre, and Emre’s love for her. How and why she decided to enter the fighting pits at the age of fourteen. Her drive to solve the mystery surrounding her mother’s death.
The story is much deeper now, and I’m really excited to finish it up. I’m closing in on the end , which is changing a lot from the first draft. The threads that have been introduced in the opening, and expanded upon (sometimes multiplying) in the middle, now need to wrap up relatively nicely in the end. I say relatively nicely, because this is a series, and some will remain unresolved as we head into the second book.
I’m in noodling mode, rereading some of the final chapters and trying to figure out what has to change in order to find something satisfying and true to the story. I’m searching for the ways to weave those threads together while also drawing the eye to the horizon to set the reader to thinking about what will come next. It’s one of my favorite parts of writing, finding just the right way to close a novel.
I think I have a few more weeks of that, and then the draft will be done. But it’ll still be a bit raw. I’ll have some polished chapters from the first draft, and some new chapters that haven’t been read over again yet. And a lot of changes that I don’t quite know work perfectly with the previously written chapters. So a full polish read is in the offing. And once that’s done, it’s off to my editors, and I can (hopefully) break away from the story for a bit to try to regain that first-reader’s perspective.
So, baby steps. Things are moving, albeit a bit slower than I’d anticipated. I’m eager to get it done and to get a publication date, but I also want the story to be right.