The Carnivorous Forest is Coming for You

After putting The Human Template to bed in early summer 2020, I thought that finishing book two of the Avenging Glory diptych would be a simply and straightforward task. After all, the book was pretty much complete when I decided to break off the first 45 pages and expand it into a full length free-standing novel. I had plenty of good reasons for that decision – given how hard it is for a previously unpublished novelist to sell a book in excess of a quarter of a million words, and given that my main protagonist didn’t make an appearance until almost halfway in. I needed a character strong enough to carry the book up to that point. 

I had deliberately structured the story that way as opposed to doing it through oversight or lack of control.  My objective at the time was to allow Raine to fully mature/develop into the force he would become after he became part of the BioGrid. As he became more a part of the computer I wanted the BioGrid to become more human – thus creating a nicely resonant yin/yang. But readers reported that they found him difficult to know and sympathize with, because I hadn’t allowed them to get to know him before his transformation; which required making his human side more three dimensional

And that pushed me into an odd position of rewriting the book from back to front, which extended the writing process by several months.

I got so distracted and swept up in the publishing and marketing processes for The Human Template that it occupied about 60% of my consciousness for more than a few months.

When I sat down to work on book two, The Carnivorous Forest, I discovered that having not been in that headspace for a year and a half made it much harder to get back into gear. If there is one aspect of The Human Template that has not gone down as well as hoped, it’s the cliff-hanger ending. That was one aspect of my process that was entirely unplanned when I first started mapping out the book. When I first broke the book apart, the scene that now ends the book was only a major sub-climax, even though it brought the war between the factions to a conclusion.

I had to go back several times during the writing process and ramp up the stakes and excitement. It needed to be a full-fledged climax – which it wasn’t. So I put a great deal of work and thought into what it would take to turn the former midpoint of the book into an actual ending. I needed it to be decisive. One side or the other needed to emerge as a clear winner of the war. And I knew who that had to be. I needed to give the victory to the character who could use her newfound resources to bring humanity back from the brink of extinction and restore it to its former position as Earth’s dominant species. Granted, Adoris is not a ‘nice’ character, but you realize as you get to know her that she is the only person with the right stuff to – as she says – “bring humanity back from the dark ages.”

One thing I have been planning ever since actually chopping the book in half – is to get book two out less that a year after book one – but I discovered when I sat down to work on it that it started like a continuation rather than a freestanding novel. It didn’t have a hook, or many of the other things a first chapter needs to have. I went back to the well on that half a dozen times before coming up with an approach that will feel like a beginning.

It had to start with the new character – who is arguably also the main protagonist in the novel (there are actually three main protagonists) but Psalma is the “hero” rather than the king or queen.

So it made sense to start off with her.  But I also needed to continue the story that I began in book one – so I had to reintroduce the other three characters, without regurgitating the whole complicated back-story.

After months of working at it, I finally found the proper balance. Psalma gets half the weight (and approximately half the length) of the novel – while I split the other half between the other two major protagonists. The main antagonist gets to play through – appearing as a major character in everyone’s story.  Some of the secondary characters needed fleshing out, to make the world(s) they are fighting for more three dimensional and the stakes more real.

In amalgamating all the new material I’ve created, I found a rhythm starting to emerge. Sort of like haiku on a jumbo scale. Beat, beat beat, beat beat beat. To my delight, it was easy to shuffle the sections that allowed that to happen. I got the first note, I found the hook, the ending that I am working toward is the grand climax that already existed. The unprecented progress I made over the last week has reinforced my original conviction that this book - this entire diptych - really is almost complete. The tweaks left to be made are charted out, although being a living breathing novel, it still may not go exactly where I had intended – but for all intents and purposes, this is just a bit more of a polish. So if anyone is waiting to start the diptych until both books are available, you won’t have much longer to wait. The final draft is back on track and will be coming to you before you know it.

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