For me anyway, books have distinct phases. The ‘what a great idea I am plunging into’ phase, to the ‘this is hard complex yakka phase’, creating the details and shape of a whole world, picking the variables that will determine your character’s path. This where you find the character and plot have had a less-than-amicable divorce, are shit-talking about each other, and will do the exact opposite of the other wanted, out of spite. It’s the hardest part of the book for me, except for some of the other parts…
Like the next part, where the book is starting to run on rails again… and I ALWAYS re-read and think and wonder… why the reader should bother, and why I as the writer should bother going on. Yeah, doubt and depression win against the earlier uncertainty, every time, easily. Now, I have written enough books to know that this too, will pass.
It’s like the sign just outside our great metropolis of Whitemark, which says ‘pass cyclists safely’ without giving you a clue how to do this. I mean, if you swallow them with their bicycles, those have lots of spiky stick-out bits, and if you swallow them without the bicycles, the bicycles make a tripping hazard. The answer is to wrap them – and their bicycles in duct tape first. And then lubricate them well to help them pass easily. Olive oil is better than sunscreen.
Or in other words, there is no obvious easy way of going through this phase: because it, as often as not, it is you that needs fixing, not the book. This is often where we turn to first readers and ask them what they think. When we have finished the book, we want them to be nasty and try to find the mistakes. At this stage we want them to say ‘take my money’ (Seriously, if helping a friend at this stage, this is not hard edit time.).
So: from the WIP (unedited, raw, hot off the fingers.)
We had to run to keep up. The wolf stopped just as I was about to drop. I stood there, hands on my knees, panting. Bey was panting too, but he, like the wolf, was turning his head to listen. And he looked deathly afraid. Then I heard it, and I was afraid too.
It was a giggle.
How a giggle could sound quite so nasty, quite so evil… and quite so… gleeful was a shock. But it did. And then off to the side, was another. And then, another, from the other side.
“What is it?” I asked, looking around the snowy forest-land we found ourselves in.
“Nithings.” The word was almost a hiss from Bey. He plainly hated and feared whatever they were.
“What are ‘nithings’?” I asked, not sure I wanted the answer.
“Illska hlátr. The cruel laughter. The children of the hag of Niflheim. They take glee in torture and find sport in tormenting those they catch. That’s who Uncle Luke rescued me from, after the Jotunar killed my parents.”
“What do we do?”
“Run. They wouldn’t be chasing us if there weren’t hundreds of them.”
“I don’t know if I can run much further.”
“You just have to try, Liss. We can’t stop,” said Bey pulling me upright. His voice, his manner… I remembered that, when he first came to stay with grandfather. Bey was on the edge of panic, just holding it in. Only just. So I tried running again. Got a bit of a second wind, or maybe it wasn’t as steep uphill. The snow up wasn’t deep, just a nasty, slippery crust. It had got a little lighter, possibly because we were mostly out of the forest, onto a rocky ridge. But the whatchamacallits were definitely gaining on us. I saw one for the first time, through the trees just down-slope.
I wasn’t prepared for that.
It looked like… a bunny.
And then there was another. It was a cute little baby-face.
There was something wrong with it… with both of them. Babies and bunnies didn’t move like that, though.
And they didn’t laugh like that either.
We’d come to a steepish piece of rock. The wolf bunched itself and leaped, taking it in two bounds and few bits of rock, falling down on us. Fortunately nothing large, but I flung the first chunk as hard as I could at the chasers. Hit one. It even sounded like a baby, yowling about it. “Climb,” said Bey.
So I did. Both of us did. Looking at the milling pack of things below us they… had more legs than a baby. Or a cute bunny. I said as much to Bey.
“They sew the skins to themselves. They like the small and soft. They skin them alive, and then sew them to their own skin. Angbroda’s seidr keeps the skins looking alive. You’re supposed to feel sorry for them. To spare them, to hold back… and then they kill you. They use pity and goodness as a weapon against men.”