Hard Lessons | The Writing Site of R K Athey

The Painful World of Grey

World of Grey CoverThere are some stories that flow from your mind into Scrivener like water down a stream. World of Grey wasn’t one of those. I had to beat the flaws out with large, literary hammers.

The story started out simply enough. A friend wanted a short story of about two thousand words to go into one of his gaming books. World of Grey clocked in at about 21,000 words. I never meant for it to be that large but Sarge had a lot to say and that’s one guy I’m not arguing with.

It also flowed out of a need to work on action scenes. My yet-to-be-published followup to New Moon Murders sagged in the middle and I resolved conflict too quickly. I decided writing a new, action-packed tale would be just the thing to practice before ripping the covers off of Prescription for Revenge.

Thus World of Grey was born. Problem was, it had issues. I didn’t like it much. I guess for an exercise it wasn’t bad but the main character, Sarge, started to grow on me. I started another story in the series named Serpent’s Strike which I’m writing as part of NaNoWriMo. I didn’t want World of Grey to be a tossed away. It had some real gems buried in the pile. I wanted to pull them out and make them shine.

The beginning of the original story was all exposition. I did this to explain the gaming universe. Several of the beta readers didn’t like that. Others loved it so I left it in. The copy editor at Flourish Editing said it needed to go. I argued but her point was that capturing a reader’s attention and holding it involved managing the rise and fall of tension throughout the story. Large amounts of exposition killed that.

So I rewrote the first chapter, adding conflict and failure in the Kzzick Warrens to explain why Sarge was in such a bad mood in Chapter 2. It worked out very well and Chapter 1 said most of the things I had in the exposition except it introduced the universe with the reader in the story.

After attending Jim Butcher’s writing workshop I added Sarge’s emotive response to the conflict. My original concept of the character was a cold, killing machine without much emotion. Turns out that gave the readers a slim ledge with which to engage with my story. I added a sequence to each scene. Word from the Beta Readers was that Sarge’s emotional response put him more into the story. The unspoken truth of that was that it put the reader more into the story as well.

Another Butcherism was the point of view aspect. Sarge was often watching Doc pilot the ship during the two atmospheric battles. I altered those to center the PoV around his actions with Doc’s piloting as an aside. It felt a little unnatural, since her piloting was what kept the shuttle intact but, again, it put Sarge more into the story.

Overall it’s a better tale than the one I first wrote. I’m very proud of the way it turned out and with my growth as a writer.

It’s time to get back to NaNoWriMo. I just thought I’d take a little break. You can find World of Grey on Smashwords and Amazon.

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