It’s been a long, hard slog, but the second draft of Cinder, Book Four of the Dragon Apocalypse, is finally finished. If I’m being objective, the second draft didn’t take an unusual amount of time compared to some of my previous books. I normally give myself two to three months for a second draft, and I finished this one in about 8 weeks.
The main reason it was challenging was that this is the first time I’ve ever written a fourth book in a series. The Bitterwood series has four books, but it’s a trilogy plus a prequel, and the prequel mostly stands alone. Writing the third book in a trilogy is challenging because you’ve got so many plotlines and characters you’ve got to juggle. Writing the fourth book in a series felt exponentially more complicated. Bitterwood had a pretty large cast by the time I got to the last book in the trilogy, but most of the cast knew each other and were all gathered together in a few key locations. With the Dragon Apocalypse, I have characters literally scattered to Hell and back, and, thanks to one of the cast members being a time traveler, they're spread out over a whole century of plot points. Half the cast from previous books are dead now, but since a big part of the adventure takes place in Hell, dead characters have plenty of opportunities to make guest appearances.
But, hooray, it’s now a real novel! My first draft was most of a book, but the last few chapters existed only as a few lines of summary. Now, I’ve actually got 25 completely written chapters, 117k words of truly epic madness. I’m ready to start sending out chapters to advance readers to get feedback as I work through a third draft. I know there’s still several big things I need to fix. First and foremost, I feel like my main character is a little two dimensional. Cinder is the daughter of Infidel and Stagger, a child conceived in the land of ghosts, with the power to walk between the worlds of the living and the dead. I worry she comes across as more of a plot device than a fully fleshed out character. The plot can’t move forward without her making certain choices. Usually when I write a character like this they have a perverse tendency to reject the choices I’ve made for them and carve out their own paths, throwing my carefully crafted plotlines into chaos. Cinder proved worryingly cooperative. I can’t really flesh out my worries here without introducing spoilers, since her character arc and the plot are so tightly integrated. I need to somehow get deeper into her head. Even better, I need to get deeper into her heart. She’s got a certain stoic toughness that she carries well, but I need to get past that into some of her darker thoughts. I need to know when and why she’s afraid of herself. I toy with this at a few points in the book, but pull back because I don't want her seeming whiny. Once I get the right mix of self confidence and self doubt nailed, I think she’ll be fine.
If you haven’t read the previous three books in the series, this next paragraph will come across as gibberish. If you have read the previous books, here’s some of the good stuff awaiting you: Menagerie is back, and totally bad ass. Infidel gets to garb up after twenty years of retirement to knock sense into some really, really, really big dragons. Slate and Sorrow pick up their flirtatious “are we enemies or are we allies” romance, joining forces to survive in the treacherous wastelands of Hell as they search for the soul of Stark Tower. The Black Swan is back in all her time travelling glory, making a real mess of past, present, and future. Oh, and Zetetic the Deceiver returns, with his madness cranked up to eleven. By the end of the book, I kill about half of the people mentioned on this list. The rest don’t get off quite so lucky.
Enough! There is still a great deal of work to do! Third, fourth, and fifth drafts must be produced, then line edits and galley proofs. Then, finally… I unleash the Apocalypse!
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I'm James Maxey, author of fantasy and science fiction. My novels include the science fantasy Bitterwood Saga (4 books) the Dragon Apocalypse Saga (4 books), numerous superhero novels including Nobody Gets the Girl and the Lawless series, the steampunk Oz sequel Bad Wizard, and my short story collections, There is No Wheel and Jagged Gate. This website is focused exclusively on writing. At my second blog, Jawbone of an Ass, I ramble through any random topic that springs to mind, occasionally touching on religion and politics and other subjects polite people are sensible enough not to discuss in public. If you'd like to get monthly updates on new releases, as well as preview chapters and free short stories, join my newsletter!