Book Four, The Brigand’s Promise, until now, held the title of Toughest Book in the Series to Write, primarily because I made the villains the protagonists. It also contained a giant plot hole which plagued me for months and required me to introduce a new character in the fourth draft. Now, Book Seven, The Mystic’s Mandate, has stolen that dubious honor.
My protagonist, Maygan, did not exist at first. The initial idea for Mandate followed a lead character from Zandor, Brigid. Several plot attempts fizzled at the midpoint of the story—no climax or resolution, just a sad ending after a narrative of history.
That wouldn’t do at all. I relegated Brigid to a secondary and created Maygan, who would reach a satisfying conclusion and whom readers could root for. I rewrote the plot, and while still not pleased with it, began the first draft, figuring that the story arc was decent, and I would fix the details later.
The first draft was like pulling teeth. Maygan felt and worked like a last-minute addition. The other characters were uncooperative. My three “bad guys” were vying for the role of “Villain Supreme,” none of them willing to take a backseat to the others. The story was dark and rambling, and the extensive timeline plagued me. Upon completion of the first draft, I wrote yet another plot, attempting to crystalize the key points of the story so I could hone it and shorten it. The monstrous first, second, and third drafts reached more than 122k words—close to the size of The Curse of Caledon. Curse has the story to carry such a weighty length. Mandate was just long.
Subsequent drafts attempted to whittle the word count while intensifying the story, strengthening the characters, and making the narrative make sense. I couldn’t shorten the time span, but I worked on making the passage of years easier to follow.
After five drafts, the story had come together at last. The characters were cooperating, and I knew them well.
So began editing and more killing of the word count. In one infamous pass, I dropped over 12k words from the manuscript, losing none of the important elements of the story. By the time my editor got the manuscript, I had worked it down to 103k words—the length of Guardians—and I was pretty proud of it.
He made me cut two words from the very first sentence. Then followed more cuts: repetition, dragging scenes, character inconsistencies… damn, I thought I had found all those!
The story came together with our joint effort, and The Mystic’s Mandate is now a book I am proud of at 91,287 words. I hope nothing ever snatches its title of Toughest Book in the Series to Write, because I’m not sure I’ll survive another manuscript like this one!
Book Seven released November 5th. Do you have your copy yet?
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