Challenges, Part 1: Eve of Snows
The first challenge:
Eve of Snows was intended to be shopped out for traditional publication, and in that world one will find that a book from an unknown author which pushes above 120,000 words is at a severe disadvantage, even in epic fantasy. I kind of dismissed this for a while, but there’s no doubt it’s true, no matter what evidence you might see on bookshelves. Even in contests, it’s just a hideous little rule.
Believe it or not, I did have Eve of Snows down to 120k, but its published length is over 140k. I sent that off to my wonderful editor and! by the time we were through, it was back over 150k. G’grief. That’s when my brain went into buzzsaw mode and cut it down to the 140k area, chopping out a bunch of fatty little words. It was remarkable what could be achieved, even if it didn’t get close to 120k ever again. In fact, I had a version down to 130k to send out to traditional publishers.
So what happened then? I had spent about a year researching agents and publishers and conventions, where and with whom to rub elbows, all that gibberish, when it struck me… I’m going to query three of the top agents and send out chapters to TOR Publishing, and if no one bites, I’m going Indie Author. This was pretty much a decision to go Indie, because getting any of those to bite would’ve been like finding Wonka’s Golden Ticket. So, really, Challenge #1 was thrown under the bus, length no longer mattered. Still, part of Eve of Snows was kicked into Book 2, Trail of Pyres.
Which brings me to Challenger #2: 140k words, a sprawling, complicated plot, and less than a month in Sister Continent time to get to the end. It was a little Smokey and the Bandit, a long ways to go, and a short time to get there. This causes some issues: Logistics, all the characters need to be where they need to be when they need to be there… Plus, Glimdrem’s character (originally in Eve of Snows) could only be put on the sidelines for so long to make things congeal between Books 1 & 2. You’ll see this, as Book 2, Trail of Pyres, starts with a chapter set well before the Eve of Snows.
Challenge #3 is a combination of #1 & #2: How much world building and description to include in order to A: keep word count down, and B: keep the pacing to feel like something happening in a short span of time. My theory was that if I went “full epic” with detail and maybe even by including another POV character or two, the book would get so damned big that it would no longer feel like it was happening in under a month’s time. EoS could have wrung the bell at 200-250,000 words. As a friend commented once about one chapter: George Martin would’ve taken a hundred pages for this. While that might be an exaggeration, he had a point. But, would EoS at 200,000 words have the feel I was shooting for? I decided no.
Next up, the Challenges involved with Trail of Pyres, which kind of flips the script with Eve of Snows.