WARNING: The following is a personal assessment of my recently concluded novel’s first draft. Don’t worry about reading it, nothing special pops up and you probably can’t glean any kind of new information out of it if you were so inclined to.
If you enjoyed the story and don’t want to be spoiled, I suggest you don’t read on. If you haven’t my story, I suggest you don’t read on.
If you’re interested in hearing a bunch of blather that popped into my head when going over why my recent novel ended up the way it did and/or my own take on it then feel free to read on.
I’m just sharing this as an insight into my process for writing – like this entire novel has been. I wrote each chapter in a sitting, as a first draft, with plans for refining it in the future. It is also absolutely not me saying that liking it is wrong, I am my own worst critic.
PROJECT POST-MORTEM for MESOGRIN.
Mesogrin is a novel set in the post-apocalypse of a fantasy world.
Following an apocalyptic war between humanity and the demons known as the Pillars, humans survive hidden away. Protected by the machines of the city of Mesogrin, human civilization has started to slowly reform.
Emilia and Rachael, two women living in the town of Battery Point, discover Anna, and by doing so drag themselves into a conflict that they had thought dead for two centuries.
Evil is a matter of perspective. – I would like to think this was a success, though in a hamfisted manner. The novel was originally intended to be much bloodier, but as it dragged on it lost most of that due to length constraints.
The Seven Paths. – they definitely could have been more rooted in the story to present how they are actively followed by people of the town, and not just associated with the Cults. The town was largely underdeveloped as a backdrop, meaning most of this was lost.
The Allure of Fascism. – Mesogrin was underestablished, due to their absence for most of the story. Mesogrin is a fascistic state of being, and the comfort they afford is supposed to be a representative of why societies so often turn towards authoritarianism.
The Allure of Religion. – the Cults were well established an an enemy, but they weren’t allowed the chance to “infect” the polity of the town. The Lost God could have been more established as a “protagonist”.
The Allure of Socialism. – It was heavily lost by the fact the cults were largely turned into antagonists. The Pillars were intended as a socialising force, that would offer an obvious good, but scored against the fact they were also considerably violent in their force.
The Flaws of Man. – Men in this world are relegated to the status of second-class citizens due to a religious sentiment. This was intended to show the indoctrination and the dogma of the Lost God and their followers, as well as Mesogrin, as opposed to the social egalitarianism of the Cults.
Notes. – what was originally intended to be tonally darker, essentially became quite a bit more pulpy. That will need to be directly addressed in future drafts.
Conflict between the Cults and Mesogrin. (superplot) – essentially became a subplot. Was effectively replaced by the conflict between the cults and the town.
Battery Point’s fall. (superplot) – ended kind of on a good note? My desire to create a happier story undermined a lot of the originally intended darkness of the story.
Emilia and Rachael’s Relationship. (subplot) – essentially became the only plot for the first ten chapters.
Emilia’s struggle with her past. (subplot) – largely dropped really, it was hard to implement in a way that wasn’t too coincidental. Suggest replacement with an originally unintended subplot of Emilia’s struggle with her anxiety and better explain where that comes from. The anxiety was a side-effect of largely dropping her past as a plot-line.
Rachael’s struggle with her powers. (subplot) – entirely missing for the most part. Lost amongst other things.
Anna’s cultural adjustment/culture shock (subplot) – a mixture of failures to implement this, mostly regarding the actual implementation of Anna and her involvement in other plots.
Emilia Hyle. (main) – fine, motivations were clear but plot railroads against it.
Rachael Ashenbury. (main) – awakening powers should have been bigger focus of earlier chapters.
Anna/Anathema. (main) – weak start, too heavily involved in the main plot to establish her primary subplot.
Karis. (supporting) – inorganic, didn’t establish her motivations.
Victorie. (supporting) – overused, ruined her mystery.
Sana. (minor) – poorly defined, didn’t establish her motivations.
Kass. (minor) – underused, arrived too late.
Evie. (minor) – late re-addition, reintroduce properly.
Simon. (minor) – remove, his role could very easily be replaced without the awkwardness intended to afford a glance into Anna’s humanity.
Pillar of Lust. (antagonist) – underdefined, they need to be more anchored in the root of the story and not introduced mid-way.
Mesogrin. (antagonists) – underdefined, they need to be more present for most of the story as more than just the spectre of an enemy.
Stylistically, inconsistent. A shift towards more traditional (for me) expressionistic stylings would greatly improve the quality of the story. What was originally intended to be a bit more on the pulpy side for me, has turned into a relatively sloppy affair.
Sitting down to write essentially double my usual daily word count for a single project resulted in some teething issues that can no doubt be seen throughout. Some more time and care to fix up a lot of these issues will hopefully iron out the problems.
It lacked the usual care I devote to things like choice of wording, use of colour theory, organic dialogue, etc.
Work is needed on portrayal of action sequences.
Work is needed on establishment of scenery.
Work is needed on pacing and plot development.
An author is their own harshest critic, however the end result of the project was underwhelming. The sane solution would be to scrap the entire novel and start on something new, however that’s what I always say.
A second draft should expand on the content of the story and flesh out the themes and plots to a satisfactory level. I am hesitant to say it was a good first draft, it was pretty crap really, but all adventures start somewhere.
I think, to use a terrible cliche no-one should ever use – the first draft is a diamond in the rough. Or, maybe to be less cliche, it is an unpolished mirror. With the right amount of elbow-grease it could really shine, and reflect a bit of the world back as us.
Until that happens though, let’s leave it as.