I recently came across a website titled Limyaael’s Rants, in which an English grad student studying for a Ph.D. writes some very good articles about what can make or break a fantasy novel (though I suspect a number of her points could also transcend into other genres). She covers everything from abused characters to world building, nearly 350 articles. Some are lessons that I’ve learned a long time ago… and some are points that I haven’t considered yet.
I don’t have very long before I start up my second rewrite, and the topics on this rant page have got me thinking about what goals I’ll make before going through the novel again. I started this project thinking ‘form and composition first, then scenes, then prose’, and I still think it’s a good way to work with it (though it makes ‘eh’ excerpts at present).
To do, between the drafts:
– Minor characters. If they have an impact on the scene, figure out who they are, where they live, what they do.
– Mapping. Everything in my book all occurs in the same city. There are some notable features of this city, even in the low-end districts where caves are the norm. Refine them, name them.
– Art. I know the style of the noblemen’s art. Not the commoners. I also don’t know who the heroes that the statues between the university and palace are made for. Explore this further.
– Rewrite much of the palace events from Wyrren’s point of view. Make the intrigue intrigue-y, probably add two subplots to contrast with the simplicity of Rylan’s tasks to the complexity of Wyrren’s place. Also, this will serve to disguise Kione’s initial importance. Hide a leaf in a forest.
– Exposition. I actually added no exposition in the first draft. I wanted to write the story first and see what needed to be explained. Now I know: the magic system, the harshness of the surface, and the use of assassins in war rather than armies due to the climate. Those are the biggies. Everything else? By implication.
– Finalize the plot. After breaking my outline several dozen times in this draft, I’m at least hopeful that my characters will be satisfied with their actions. I’m going to rewrite a plot synopsis and rake through it for plot holes. (Die, circular logic, die!! … ahem.)
Anyway, if you have a free hour, take a look at her articles.