The last chapter of Book 2 in the Frankie Falawell series is done, and the rough draft is complete.. It's 33 chapters long and a little over 92,000 words in length. Bigger than Book 1 (roughly 73,000 words post-editing), but not War and Peace (more than 587,000 words). I was sweating it near the end, afraid that I was going to pass my self-imposed 95,000 word mark, but I didn't. And I still have roughly 3000 words to work with - that's almost a chapter in itself. Go me!
I want to say this book was a struggle, but it wasn't. This is the second part of an original manuscript I wrote a long time ago. Since then, I've been adding and revising scenes and chapters for the last couple of years. When I finally sent Book 1 out to the editor, I immediately started on Book 2. Start to finish, the rough-draft took me about 3 months to complete, 6 months if you include all of the sections of the story that I rewrote from scratch.
What was a struggle, however, was figuring out what to include, and what to throw away. Book 1 was a cinch, in that it was an adventure from start to finish, and there was very little fluff. The tension was mostly external. You know: the clashing of swords, the cry of battle, and all of that.
Book 2, however, starts out completely different, and doesn't hit the adventure portion until after Chapter 18. There is more high fantasy then the predecessor, and new characters being introduced into Frankie's orbit. It really is an important book in the series, as what is introduced here follows Frankie until the very last book.
I've done a fair amount of hand-wringing over this manuscript, mainly how it starts. I had so much material I needed to include, and a lot of "darlings," that needed to make it into the book. I really start introducing the lore of the world here: people, places, and things. Plus, it gives a much deeper insight into one of the characters introduced early in Book 1.
Like I said, I had a lot of "darlings" I needed to put in. Even as I started laying out the chapters, I realized quickly that the book was long, and unwieldy. So, some of the "darlings" had to go. And boy, some of them were hard to let go. But, in the end, if they don't drive the story forward, then they're just white noise. Nothing but writing for writing's sake.
That being said, I recognize Book 2 is much tighter. Some stuff I struggled with. I look back at some of the compromises, and nod my head in satisfaction. Characters I struggled with, tweaking them to get them just right, fell right into place. Last minute additions really hit the nail on the head.
Plus, the tone. Where Book 1 was bawdy, Book 2 is a study in contrasts. My working title is aptly named, and I wonder if it will remain. Whereas the manuscript starts in a idyllic dreamland, it ends in darkness, within the abandoned settlements of the Wodemen, deep beneath the earth. It starts with lighthearted fare, and ends in darkness and foreboding. I have to say, the last three chapters were a genuine thrill to write. Starting with the original manuscript, I took the things I really liked (as did my wife), played with them, working with them like potter's clay. My intention was to build, and build, and build an atmosphere of impending doom the further you read in. I think I nailed it. Only you can decide if that is true.
I think it's a good thing that every book should have it's own sort of personality. That the narrative of Frankie's journey has the same sort of twists and turns as the story. I still stress that my sophomore effort will not match the first book. This always seems to be the case for many of the musicians and bands that I follow: the sophomore curse. The second album is never as good as the first, and so on, and so on. Yet, of my favorite bands, I always thought the second album was far better than their initial effort. Dream Theater, a band I sometimes follow, landed a hit on the Images and Words album. But the second album - Awaken - never really measured up to the first, or so some of the critics said. Yet, to me, Awaken was tighter, and more focused. I remember listening to that album for well over a month straight, when I finally purchased it.
Well, that's enough ranting for now. On to Book 3.