Razor Mountain Development Journal #40

This is part of my ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain. Be forewarned, there are spoilers ahead! You can start from the beginning here.

Last Time

I wrote my author bio. I also did some research into online critique groups.

Writing is Hard

This week was an exhausting one, with work and family busyness sapping my writing energy. The weather is sidling toward the cooler end of the thermometer, and school is back in session for my kids — with a few extra pandemic complications to contend with.

After planning and outlining Razor Mountain for the majority of the year, the book still managed to sneak up on me. I find myself wishing I had sorted more of the publishing setup as I worked through the outline. However, I finally made the big leap and started writing. Not a huge amount, but as much as I could manage this week. I haven’t quite finished my first draft of chapter one.

I suppose I should be more triumphant. I started writing! Unfortunately, it didn’t feel that triumphant. It felt…tiring. I could blame the surrounding circumstances of a busy week, or the broader state of the world. And I’m sure those things deserve some blame, but not all of it.

I don’t know how it works for other writers, but for me the start of the novel is always the hardest part. When the book is entirely in my head, it exists in a bright, gauzy haze of lovely, perfect ideas. It’s not concrete enough to have rough edges yet. Even when I’m outlining, I end up squinting at it enough that it still looks pretty great. But when I start putting one word in front of another, that’s when I really have the opportunity to start doubting myself. There’s no more hiding behind the vagueness of incomplete ideas. I now have to actually perform the telepathic alchemy of sending ideas between minds using only my words.

Even with an outline, there are a million details to figure out and decisions to make during the writing process. Most importantly though, each novel has its own distinct sound, and I’m not quite sure what Razor Mountain sounds like yet.

The First and Last Chapter

This is a project full of experiments, so why not add another? Something I see authors occasionally write about — but I’ve never personally done — is writing the last chapter of the book before the rest. The idea is not to have a completed last chapter, or even a fully functional draft of the last chapter, but to have an idea of the ending that you’re aiming for as you work your way through the story.

For a while now, my intent has been to have parallels between chapter one, the last chapter (41), and God-Speaker’s last chapter of Act I (chapter 16). Chapters 16 and 41 involve God-Speaker and Christopher in the cave of the artifacts. In chapter one, Christopher wakes up on a small plane, slightly drugged, in the dark. Because of some faint trace of God-Speaker’s memories seeping in, and because of his groggy state, Christopher sees the plane initially as a dark cave. Only after he wakes up a little bit does he realize where he actually is.

The Razor Mountain Prototype

As I think about what the book should sound like, I need some pages to work with — some word-clay to shape. Razor Mountain starts with two Christopher chapters, to get the reader into his adventure, before switching to God-Speaker’s point of view for chapter three. I think these three chapters, plus the experimental final chapter, make a good selection to start with. My current plan is to write rough drafts of these chapters. Then I can begin to polish, figure out the voice, and have a three-chapter sample for potential beta readers and critiquers. I’m also hoping to get an idea of how fast I can realistically write this thing in a way that I’m proud of.

Once I have that done and have readers lined up, I just have to get through the final publishing setup. I’ll probably spend a few days updating and revamping the website. The blog schedule will change, as I’ll continue publishing development journals for each chapter alongside the chapter itself.

After that, there’s nothing to do but write as fast and as well as I can.


I wrote part of a first draft of chapter one, and thought about the bits I want to write and polish before I start publishing.

Author: Samuel Johnston

Professional software developer, unprofessional writer, and generally interested in almost everything.

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