Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 28

This is part of an ongoing series where I’m documenting the development of my serial novel, Razor Mountain.

You can find my spoiler-free journals for each chapter, my spoiler-heavy pre-production journals, and the book itself over at the Razor Mountain landing page.

Remember When This Book Had No Dialogue?

Having just written yet another chapter that is almost entirely characters walking and talking, it’s hard to believe that this book started with a single character, completely alone in the wilderness. For the entirety of Act I, Christopher had nobody to talk to. God-Speaker had his tribe, but even in those early chapters they didn’t have much to say to each other, and I purposely limited their vocabulary and the ways they communicated.

In Act II, that began to change. Christopher was slowly introduced to more people: Amaranth, then the exiles, and finally the people of Razor Mountain itself. God-Speaker built up a society around himself, becoming more sophisticated and social.

Now, in Act III, I’m finding that every chapter is stuffed full of dialogue by necessity. Dialogue is a fantastic tool for rolling out exposition in a natural and interesting way. I need to resolve all the mysteries that were set up along the way, and that means getting a lot of information across. Dialogue is great for that.

The potential downside of all that dialogue is the way it slows the pacing. Dialogue naturally tends to slow a story down, because it feels like it’s happening more-or-less in real time. An entire chapter of dialogue can span only a few minutes of time within the story. Narrative description, even when it’s flowery, can often pack more time and more events into fewer words.

I’m trying to keep the dialogue tight to counter this slowing effect, but I’m sure I’ll come back later and find more that I could have done. For me, dialogue is one of the hardest things to edit, because changing something early in a conversation can cause cascading changes throughout the rest of the conversation, like redirecting the flow of a river.

Parsing Feedback

Feedback for this book has been a strange beast. I get some real-world feedback before I publish a chapter, then it goes out onto the blog, Wattpad and Tapas, where it (sometimes) gets more feedback, mostly in the form of comments. And sometimes I’ll get comments on chapters that I wrote months ago, as new people find the story. This process, with a publicly available serial story is a very different experience from writing the whole book and then getting feedback from a curated group of people.

That said, I’ve been getting great (that is, useful) feedback on the last couple chapters. Hopefully that means readers are engaged and excited about the direction the story is going. It’s really helpful to see what questions readers have and what they’re wondering about at this stage.

As mysteries start to resolve and questions get answered, I think readers naturally become more and more aware of the questions that haven’t been answered yet. Getting feedback on what readers are wondering about is really useful here, because it can tell me whether I’ve really answered some questions as well as I think I have. It also tells me what I should emphasize in upcoming chapters.

So, if you’re reading and you have feedback, please drop me a comment! It’ll only make the story better.

Next Time

Chapter 28 turned out to be a long one—so  long that I broke it in half. In Chapter 29, Cain and Christopher will confront the cabinet, and more will be revealed about what happened in the years while God-Speaker was gone from Razor Mountain.

Author: Samuel Johnston

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

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