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Sub-plots and backstory

The first round of editing one of my books is a slow process (especially when you procrastinate as much as I do!) and usually identifies some big gaps that need to be filled. Occasionally (if I’m really unlucky) they appear in the main plot. More frequently, they show up in the sub-plots and backstory.

Or rather, they don’t show up. When I’m in the flow of writing, it’s all about the plot. When I come back to re-read it later, I realise that a novel which is all plot, plot, plot is dull and, frankly a bit exhausting. Sub-plots add depth and colour and give the reader a bit of a break. They can also give changes in setting or style – anything to liven up what might otherwise be deathless prose.

Age of Oppression is set in one confined location and very seldom leaves the forest clearing where the Army has its base. So, on re-reading it, I realised that there needs to be more focus on the outside world. What’s more Balance of Betrayal created a political environment – mainly for use in books to come – and some work to remind loyal readers of this was necessary.

So, as I’m working through the novel, I’m adding in a fair bit of political back story at the moment. While Dale and Allin and Joss are living their lives in the foreground – not always happily – Sallent and his Emperor brother are making moves of their own. Every now and then, there is an interruption in what is happening in Trennies Orchard to add a bit more of a progression to the Governor or Bremmand and his intentions.

It is interesting work – when the Bremmand Chronicles first arrived in my imagination it was all about Joss. Then, over time, it became all about Allin. Now, for the first time, the ambitions and challenges of the enemy are starting to play more of a role. What’s more, I have a tiny inkling that the next book in the series (working title of Transitions – but I hate that and I know it is going to change) is going to have a very different emphasis to the one I had in mind originally.

Sub-plotting while editing has its challenges too. When I reach a point when the next piece of sub plot needs to be added, I’m drafting it but that is a piecemeal way of working. Right now I’m not entirely sure that the subplot makes sense and is in the right order. I have a feeling that Sallent may have invaded a neighbouring kingdom twice (at least)!!

That’s all part of the process though. When I go back for the second edit, I’ll be able to read it as a part of the whole and then move and adjust things to fit better.

What’s more – for all the pain of doing it and the doubts that it is working right – the end result will be a better book. And that’s what it is all about.

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