When Your Book is more than One Book

The Queen of the Mountain Kingdom should be finished by now, but I am still struggling to complete it. I think that I have realised the problem; it is not just one book. I do not know exactly how many books it is, to be honest, possibly three. Maybe four. I do not know. I do know that the first book will not be the last and this seems to be the problem. When I started the Sorrow Song Trilogy I did not have a series of books in mind. I was just going to write one novel about the greatest victory that the Saxons ever won over their ancient enemy, the Vikings. It was during the research that I discovered that there were three key battles in 1066. Obviously, the idea of making it a trilogy followed very quickly. With writing historical fiction, however, the plot is motivated by historical events as well as by any devices I come up with. In fantasy, everything comes from the imagination.

At some point in writing up the first draft I decided to extend the story over at least three volumes. I think that the world it is set in will happily allow for that. I have an overarching plot, not in extensive detail but it covers all the main points. The first book is very much setting the scene and introducing some, but not all, of the key characters. The plot is well defined, logical, and, in my opinion, leads to a lot of excitement; so why is it not finished yet?

Well, I think that I have fallen guilty to trying to do too much too soon. While I was working on preparing Mesozoic for audiobook production it occurred to me that I was trying to set things up in book one that will not be dealt with until book two at the earliest. It was not that I was hinting at things that might happen, I was actually trying to lay the groundwork. The problem with that approach is that it can and does take your eye off the ball. I stopped focussing on what was supposed to be happening. Too many ideas began to appear too late in the story. They all needed extra work to develop properly and, I realised, that I had given myself a huge list of writing chores to do. It was time to play the editor. I asked myself what was necessary? In answering this question, I decided to be quite ruthless and extracted over 4,000 words from the manuscript. Okay, 4,000 in a book of over 160,000 words is not that great, but it is not in the count really, it is in what this text would have forced me to do to make sense to the reader. I do not need to develop or spend any more time on the ideas that those 4,000 words contained.

In the wake of this decision I returned to the text and worked at improving the account of a large battle in which two magical beings fight. I knew that it needed work. The flow of action was not woven together as closely as I would like it to be. Also, the end of the book needs a lot of work. I know how I want it to end, it just has not gotten there yet. I suppose this just illustrates the fact that I have learnt while writing. If this had been one of my earlier books then I might not have had the courage to edit it down like this, or to make the decision regarding some of the ideas that I have had. Those ideas have not been dispensed with, they have just been put on hold until later in the series. Hopefully, this means that Queen of the Mountain Kingdom is a step closer to completion.

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