Welcome to Monday, which means another installment in my chapter commentaries for Vodnik. Basically, I get to let you see some of my writing process in these each week–talking about what changes went into the novel as it meandered its way to publication. This was a chapter that originally spanned two and a half chapters. Why did it go on a crash diet to come to its current slender form of one chapter?
Because it did a whole bunch of things that other chapters were already doing.
For one thing, it had Tomas sit around his house and mope a lot. I don’t know what I was thinking. Probably just gearing up for bigger and better things later on, I guess. (I didn’t have an outline when I started this book. Only a vague idea of the direction I was headed. I did that a lot on my earlier books. And the natural result of this approach is that sometimes I have to write to figure things out. I still do this to an extent–I write to discover exactly who my main characters are, toying with different voices and personalities, refining things as I go. This means that sometimes a character will change mid-scene, mid-book. Sometimes I go back and change the character in earlier chapters–often I just pretend I did that and plow forward. (You can lose a lot of writing momentum if you keep insisting on making your earlier chapters match how you’ve changed things in later chapters. These days, I usually pretend the changes are there, then make all changes in one big fell swoop, once the draft is completed. By then, I know all the characters really well, and it’s easy to just get them in line with who they became, not who they were.))
In any case, nobody really needs to read about characters being mopey for two and a half chapters–and certainly not at the start of the novel. Tomas was sad he was leaving. He was sad he was packing. He was sad he had a crummy apartment.
There was a brief moment of excitement when he saw the castle for the first time. Originally, he sees the castle at night, on his way to his apartment. I was actually quite happy with the description. Trencin Castle is easier to see and describe from afar, as opposed to the way it’s introduced in Vodnik now–up close. But emotionally, it made Tomas feel a bit like a yo-yo. He moped and moped and moped, then CASTLE!!! Yay! And then five minutes later, back to moping. Since the castle got introduced a chapter later anyway, there was no need to have it in there twice.
The more I worked on the book, the clearer it became that the goal was to get Tomas to Slovakia ASAP. To get him to start working on not being mopey. To get him to start making progress. So 2.5 chapters became 1.