Do all books have a bit in the middle that just won’t cooperate? In Terms of Service there was the palace scene that I had to redo several times –it didn’t help that it was between two very strong scenes, but it was also weak in itself– and now I’m editing A Voice from the North there’s the scene in the Order house with Lyse and Raneth bickering. It does everything that it should do, but it’s an awful muddle and I’ve been poking at it for days to get it into shape.
I even printed out the scene, as well as the bit at the end of chapter 20 after the line that’s a perfect end-of-chapter line but had several paragraphs of internal monologue following it, which I suspect really belongs in the scene. I abused it with a green fluorescent marker because that was the only one I’d got. (I think I gave the blue, pink and yellow ones from the same pack to daughters preparing for high-school final exams.)
After copying the whole thing into a text document I started to take inventory, listing what everybody wanted and how they thought about things. Jilan –the protagonist– was fairly easy, especially as the internal monologue was in fact the list. Before I could get to Lyse, who I think is mostly put-upon and overworked, I got exasperated with Raneth and started to ask myself all kinds of silly questions about her:
how long has she been in lldis? why did she go there in the first place? why didn’t she come back sooner? where was she staying? what season is it? how is the weather? did she get soaking wet and catch a cold and have to stay in the Hayan hunting lodge to take hot baths?
And trying to answer those questions ACTUALLY HELPED.
how long has she been in lldis? more than 10 days
why did she go there in the first place? to catch Lyan
why didn’t she come back sooner? because she couldn’t catch him
where was she staying? dunno
what season is it? autumn
how is the weather? okayish
did she get soaking wet and catch a cold and have to stay in the Hayan hunting lodge to take hot baths? possibly — wait, that would actually explain why she’s away so long
Now to explain why Raneth and Lyse can’t stand each other. Perhaps asking silly questions about Lyse will solve that.
Oh, and the darlingest of all my darlings is staying, however much I rewrite this scene: “to take you off my hands in a westerly direction”.