“Here we go again.” That’s what I think each time I begin the next book. Of course, this time I carried with me the experience of publishing an entire trilogy and two novelettes.
The original fourth manuscript was started in early 2010 and finished shortly into 2011. When I published book three, I didn’t originally “see” more to the story, despite the bomb dropped at the end of the third book.
However, one day while working out at Bally’s Total Fitness, while listening to Lady Gaga and Beyoncé’s Telephone song, a scene popped in my head. It was Nikko, Kiyanna, and Dane together at a dance club. I found the whole scene amusing and curious. Why would those three (in particular) be together—at a dance club? I ended up heading home and writing out the “short story” of the scene. Two days later another scene happened just like it, except this time a small group of soldiers were attacking the three ladies. I found myself asking “why?” Why were they together? What were they doing? Why were they being attacked? Why did they go to a dance club?! As always, the “Whys” led to answers, which revealed an entirely new book.
I’ve mentioned before that as I finished book four, I began working on a fifth book. However, before taking on yet another full novel, I decided to bring the first four manuscripts to “the world.” I returned back to book one, started the editing process, and the rest is history.
So, the first full trilogy is out. Two novelettes are released, and the last of the existing full manuscripts was next on the list. I know from experience that reworking an existing manuscript took a great deal of time. My writing style had dramatically changed since 2010, characters had changed, dynamics were different, etc. I needed to rewrite the entire thing.
Armed with the experience of five earlier published works, I assessed the existing fourth manuscript. While the foundation was solid, the approach needed great refinement. There were far too many point-of-views, there were far too many “main story threads” that people were going to get lost with. I also recognized the weakness in my earlier novels in character introductions and descriptions.
The first step was culling the plot points and establishing one core story thread.
I found it ironic that the very scenes (and corresponding main story thread) with Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna that inspired me to write the fourth manuscript fell outside the focused main story. They had to be removed to keep things centered on the series protagonist Rhysus Mencari.
I didn’t want to lose the important question Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna were on. So after removing the chapters dedicated to the detail behind their mission, I paraphrased the action in updates Kiyanna provided Mencari.
Doing this streamlined the main story around Rhysus Mencari, and created an opportunity to create a novelette (or even another full novel) around Dane, Nikko, and Kiyanna’s mission later!
What really gave this effort wings was when wrote the prologue for this manuscript. I didn’t have prologues and epilogues in the originally manuscripts. Those happened when each respective novel was re-edited. The introduction of “Jask” in the prologue (not a huge spoiler) from the perspective of the surviving Nukari Beast Warriors and Kajlit’ga’s encampment thrilled me. I saw it all so clearly. Interestingly enough, some aspects mimicked the original short story I wrote back in 1998 (that no one has read to date). The homage to the earlier work, including the symbolism which tied characters together, was so cool (to me).
Then I rewrote the first chapter, adding it entirely from scratch. Originally it jumped right into the operation on Naijen’s world. Without spoiling more, the new chapter one brings you right into Rhysus Mencari’s perspective. It helps you understand him, see what’s happened in the near year been the end of book 3 and the start of book 4, and where he is at emotionally and mentally. It also begins to introduce concepts about the abilities, and the first few key characters to the novel.
I saw it so clearly—watching the movie in my mind and typing it all out. The excitement from this carried me forward.
Another new section was the addition of an actual race at the Hoverdome! The Hoverdome is based on a board game design I created. In book three, you meet the character of Kiyanna who is an avid hoverbike racer (wannabe professional, current hobbyist), the Hoverdome is also introduced in passing. In the latest manuscript, she’s sent on a cover mission to race at the Hoverdome. It was thrilling to see the board game brought to life! I literally “played” the board game to create some of the dynamics discussed in the book. In fact, there’s a few evolutions to the concept mentioned in the book that will find their way back to the board game design. I’ll talk more about the Hoverdome board game in a different post. But the real thing IS coming. It’s a matter of timing.
There was one other significant change to the story. Back in 2010 my significant other of ten years ended our relationship. It was a very difficult time. The characters that represented us in the story were already headed for a split (which clearly shows I knew it was coming). But now there would be no reconciliation between the two characters… While dealing with my own personal pain, I channeled everything into the story. There were even chunks of conversations my former and I had, painful, soul destroying comments that made it in the manuscript. It certainly captured my pain during that experience.
Fast forward a number of years. I as a person have greatly evolved. It was honestly difficult to go back and reread sections of the fourth manuscript. As a writer, especially when evolving an old work, you relive the context of what inspired you to write what you did at that time. It wasn’t fun. I most certainly didn’t want to “be there” or experience “that” again.
But a curious thing—a wonderful thing—happened. I found myself blessed with the gift of perspective. I could look back on a horrible time in my life and see it with newfound understanding. I’m not the Michael of yesterday. Frankly, for the record, that end was the best thing possible for me and my son. I just didn’t realize it then.
So, as I rewrote those sections, I started by removing them entirely. There’s good drama, and then there’s bad drama. There’s interesting drama, and then there’s things we already go through enough in life that we don’t need to experience in our “entertainment.” You know?
Instead of leaving the reader in the lurch of raw emotions, instead of exposing them to my personal pain, I found a new opportunity. People will run into others they care about that are going through a terrible break-up (or dysfunction as a couple). The rewrite focused on Osuto and Rhysus Mencari’s observations about what was happening to Nikko and Cogeni, and talking about how to handle the situation. This included how to mitigate the impacts on the entire team… I enjoyed and appreciated the mature insights. My hope is it will help people understand a possible way to be navigate the muddy waters of others’ relationships.
And let’s be honest, no one needs to read things that tore holes in my soul. Some of it still smarts, now six years later. But I’ve decided it’s private and doesn’t need to see the light of day again.
Anyway, despite my attempt to cull the manuscript, it blossomed from 80,000 words (a modest starting size, thought nearly 16,000 words less than any of the other novels) to over 112,000 words! This was with content originally REMOVED. Yes, that means I wrote an additional 32,000 words while editing, and I still have content left for at least a short story (8,000 words), if not a novelette (17,000 words).
Characters demanded more time, scenes needed more action and detail, old story threads needed resolution, and once the half-way point in the story was hit, the rollercoaster of disasters that followed would not be denied their due space. So be it! I loved every moment of it.
The last chapter and epilogue clearly set up additional books. I already know what they are. In fact, I’m already working on the first book to the first spin-off series called “Weun Academy.” Yes, the same place that’s mentioned in passing in book three and presented in more detail in book four. You’ll have to wait for a future post concerning the numerous up-coming books.
I’m so excited to get this new book in your hands! I will say this, I am relieve to have the original manuscripts published. It’s given me a great sense of satisfaction. At the same time, as you know, I put a great deal of my own life into these stories. Sure, they’re set in the future, with fantastic characters and abilities. But at the heart of D’mok Revival lies human stories that everyone can relate to… Most are my own experiences, struggles, etc. But doing this comes at a cost, as you’re forced to relive what inspired you to write what you did as you review and edit the content.
Finally I get to be “me” again… Writing from my current context and place in life, no longer in the past. It’s one of the reasons Weun Academy is so fun for me to write! I get to weave my current life into my latest work!
I can’t wait to hear what you think about D’mok Revival: New Eden.
Arlene is working on the very final edit pass. The new cover is done from Glenn Clovis. I think we’re about two months out from a PRINTED release potentially. Though, I’ve been told this book is so solid I should shop it around for an agent.
Regardless, I’ll keep you posted. That’s all for now!
P.S. People have mentioned New Eden was not the original name for the fourth book, per my Author’s Note at the end of book 3. I’m changing the naming approach for this new trilogy, with subtitled that focus on the core object or thing discussed in the book as opposed to some over-arching theme.