It was a noteworthy night on April 18, 1944, that Professor John Tolkien wrote these words to his son Christopher, "I hope to see C.S.L. and Charles W. tomorrow morning and read my next chapter -- on the passage of the Dead Marshes and the approach to the Gates of Mordor, which I have now practically finished."
Some days later, on the 23rd, he wrote, "I read my second chapter, Passage of the Dead Marshes, to Lewis and Williams on Wed. morning. It was approved. I have now nearly done a third: Gates of the Land of Shadow. But this story takes me in charge, and I have already taken three chapters over what was meant to be one!"
I say noteworthy because almost precisely 76 years later, I find myself in very similar circumstances. At the present moment, I'm up to my head in drafts, outlines, notes, and all the like. I've been tentatively sharing the beginning chapters and have received very enthusiastic responses to those--and subsequently, suggestions of deficiencies in later episodes that I myself have for long suspected. And like the good professor, both of us are pushing ever ahead into the breach these early spring months, believing the end to be in sight, but repeatedly impeded by the unanticipated expansion and evolution of our stories.
I had hoped to complete a final draft by this Wednesday, April the 15th, but unfortunately, that is no longer possible. In fact, because of these late developments (which consist of both a complete restructuring of the story main and an overall reshaping of the general premise), I am forced to change the number of planned drafts (originally five) to seven.
As stated in an earlier social media post, the book has lost its subtitle of "Swords Unhallowed," and will be titled simply, "The Mighty Shall Rise." This is, of course, in line with the new premise, which I will share below. At this point, Mighty simply serves as a much better presentation of the story as it currently stands than the former.
Furthermore, The Mighty Shall Rise, which up until this time, had consisted of two books, each consisting of seven chapters each--with the addition of a Prelude, Interlude, and Postlude, will be fleshed out even more. The first book is in very good shape--albeit with the need for further (you guessed rightly) expansion (and the polishing/tightening of the dialogue and narrative)--but I'm encountering many obstacles in trying to satisfactorily wrap up the story in the final seven chapters. I tend to write rather long chapters and, on the whole, hold with contempt those pithy 2-3 page divisions which are so pervasive in contemporary fiction. However, I would also prefer to avoid a series of seven chapters that, on average, consist of 10-12,000 words--and I think the general reader would think likewise.
It is with this in mind, that I will very likely (indeed, I am experimenting with this as we speak) flesh out the latter book into two installments, with the addition of a new interlude. If this holds out, the final story will compromise of approximately 21 chapters, 2 interludes, 1 prelude, and 1 postlude.
Lastly (again, with the new premise in mind), I am endeavoring to remerge/repurpose parts and abandoned storylines from The Doom of Innocence, which, as you may remember, was originally apart of the tale I called, The Serpent and the Scroll. That, of course, was sundered into two separate stories: Doom being one, and Mighty being the other. Whether this effort will succeed or not, I am not wholly sure; but time will tell the tale soon enough.
Moving on, then!
Fourth Draft: Its completion & what that portends...
Last night, I managed to finish the fourth draft, which I had started just upon completing the third. In all, it came to 150,616 words. But if you include all the material that I'm currently endeavoring to add from The Doom of Innocence and earlier drafts, it rounds out at 195,486 words. Now, I don't at all think the final draft will hit that enormous number (though, granted, many, if not all, of my word count predictions have fallen far short of the mark); and if I had to make a guess, I would say 170K at maximum and 125 minimum.
For those who have difficulty translating word count to approximate size and length, that comes out to 739 manuscript pages or 640 5.5. x 8.5 pages (size of the published book).
Unlike previous drafts, I have not burned out creatively (yet); and will likely commence on the fifth sometime this week (likely Saturday). What this portends for my release date of July 15, 2020, I cannot say. For the time being, it shall stay as it is. I am of the belief that I can finish that seventh and (presumably) final draft before that date; but I would like to let it sit for a month or so to get such feedback as I can before giving it a final polish. So, that said, there is certainly the possibility of it being delayed several weeks or months.
Those who have been following my progress over the past year will undoubtedly note the relative dearth in communication and correspondence over the past course of this year, in contrast to the months proceeding. The reason for that is simple enough: what time I might have spent on those accounts has been repurposed for getting these drafts done, in addition to everyday responsibilities.
I hope to maintain more consistent communication in the future, but I shall be hindered in those aspects until the final form of the story is nailed down. All other writing enterprises have been suspended indefinitely as I endeavor to bring The Mighty Shall Rise to a satisfactory conclusion.
And now to the official synopsis & story details:
For those persons yet unaware, The Mighty Shall Rise is what many would call an epic fantasy novel, though I myself much prefer to describe it as a heroic romance. Below is the official synopsis in its current state:
"Recruited out of his exile, young Endurian Stonehelm forges an alliance with the legendary warrior, Tyrelion Ivronwine, to retrieve the lost Sceptre of Nórn from the White Tower in a move that will have long-ranging consequences for all of Pergelion in ways that they cannot even begin to imagine.
"Drawn into these events is the usurper, Ir-Murazôr, whose mere presence promises a long-awaited end to Endurian’s desperate search for answers. But the tormented Endurian is fighting a losing battle against a lifetime of guilt and terror, and his inevitable confrontation with Murazôr spells disaster of the worst kind.
"That, combined with the ever-looming shadow that is his family’s legacy, drive Endurian to sacrifice friendship and honour for the road of madness; and in his horrific descent into darkness and despair, the true conflict manifests itself not as a struggle to right past wrongs, but as a fight for Endurian’s very soul. To master the darkness within, he must reach beyond himself to confront the Dark King and in so doing, find his true place in the world."
As Tyrelion himself would say, "Until we return, havas eru alkali frël ouri! May the stars shine brightly upon the path your feet do tread!"