Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 31

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.

Waking Up

I find myself writing a lot of chapters in this book that start with Christopher waking up. Popular advice is that this is an overused trope that should be avoided. I feel like I might be given a pass, because earlier in the story there was some question as to whether Christopher would wake up at all, and now the question is whether he’ll still be himself when he awakens. But maybe those are just excuses for using tropes.

After Chapter 30 delved mostly into Christopher’s head, Chapter 31 gets back to the external action. However, I did make a little digression back into Christopher’s thoughts at the start of the chapter because I wanted to drop more information about the voices. Now that Christopher is getting God-Speaker knowledge, there’s no more hiding their origins.

I expect this is a spot where I might lose some readers. It’s been clear since halfway through the book that God-Speaker has some inhuman powers, but it wasn’t clear whether these came from a supernatural source or something else. If the reader thinks the book is trending toward fantasy and it takes a sudden swerve into sci-fi territory, that’s bound to annoy someone.

Hopefully those readers are invested enough at this point to accept it and keep going to the end.


My goal in the breakfast scene was to highlight the juxtaposition of the incredibly mundane (mediocre microwave breakfast burrito) with the incredibly weird (attempted assassination by poisoning). Even for the immortal god-emperor, breakfast is the most important meal of the day.

Revealing tidbits of information helps to drive the story, but the poisoning incident and the interview with Reed are there to help keep up the tension. The reader knows who killed God-Speaker, but Christopher and Cain do not, and that kind of information disparity can be used as a tension machine. As time runs out, we have to wonder when Reed is going to make his move, and what form the danger will take.

The other topic I wanted to cover in the conversations between Cain and Christopher was the oracles. They are one of the two big mysteries that I haven’t adequately resolved, and they’ll play an important part in the ending of the book. I’m honestly a little worried about how well it will work. I don’t want it to feel like deus ex machina, but I also don’t want to give away the secrets too early.

If it doesn’t work, I’ll have to go back in revisions and figure out how to clean it up. I knew there was a risk of that happening when I decided to post these chapters as I wrote them. This is an open experiment, with all the possible messiness that entails. If nothing else, I hope it’s interesting to other writers to see how one person’s process played out for one particular book.

The Interviews

The interviews that make up the rest of this chapter mostly serve to flesh out the world and the way God-Speaker fits into it. He’s the spider in the middle of the web, and the web started to break down in his absence. Hopefully it also raises the question of what Razor Mountain is for, and whether it’s a good or bad thing that God-Speaker has created.

Moira, the former Secretary of Justice, has been imprisoned for a good portion of her life in an absolutely unjust way. Whether Christopher and Cain feel guilty about this, it’s a result of the systems that God-Speaker built. She points out that no matter how they feel, there’s nothing they can do now. It’s already done, and nothing will get those years back.

Next Time

Chapter 31 was the longest chapter yet, and looking to be the longest of the book. (It’s not that long though. I just like short chapters.) There are only three chapters left.  In Chapter 32, big things will happen. See you next time.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 30

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.

It’s Not Easy Being King

It has only been two chapters since Christopher found out who he really is, and this is the first time he’s had a chance to sit with that information. There’s no conversation or reveals. He spends this chapter snooping through God-Speaker’s house and God-Speaker’s memories.

I wanted to evoke a feeling of melancholy. Most of God-Speaker’s memories and possessions are old and sad. Christopher is beginning to see that even though God-Speaker rules his own little kingdom, being God-Speaker might not be that great.

There’s also the question of what will happen to the part of him that’s still Christopher when God-Speaker takes over, and whether he’ll effectively die or cease to exist.

Planning Out the Rest of the Book

With only a few chapters left, I’ve been starting to look at what it will take to wrap this thing up. Part of that is tracking the unanswered questions and teases from earlier chapters that need to be fully resolved. Part of it is trying to set up the emotional payoff to make the end of the book feel like a proper conclusion, and not just an ending.

I’m pleased with how well my outline has held up across the entire book. As I’ve mentioned before, I went into more detail in this outline than I normally would. I wanted to give myself a safety net, since I knew I would be dropping episodes as I wrote them, and I wouldn’t be able to go back and fix mistakes without making a confusing mess for anyone who was reading each episode as it came out.

There were a few things that changed along the way. Some chapters split in two, and other chapters were cannibalized by their neighbors before they were ever written. Some bits of information ended up coming out in different places than I had planned (usually because it made sense to insert it into a particular dialogue or moment, and I hadn’t anticipated that in outlining). Despite all that, I’m still headed toward the conclusion I planned all along. Everything mostly fit into the shape I planned for it.

I still have a rough draft of the final chapter that I wrote immediately after the first chapter, just as an experiment. I think it was a success. It’s not perfect, and I’m sure I’ll rewrite it when I get to that point, but it was a useful guide for the mood of the book, and the final target that I was shooting for.

I might try writing the last chapter first for all my books going forward.


As I think about the end of Razor Mountain, I’ve also been thinking about my posting schedule. I’ve generally been posting a new chapter every other week, but I’d like to finish this thing by posting the last two or three chapters in quick succession.

To make that work, I’ll want to get all those chapters written in advance, which means I’ll probably have an extra one- or two-week break right before the big finale.

Next Time

Chapter 31 has everything you could ever want: exciting new reveals, arguments about city planning, and some light attempted murder.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 29

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.

You might recall that last time I decided to split the original Chapter 28 into two pieces. That turned out to be a good idea, because this “half” was still longer than my average chapter. Once again, dialogue fills up the pages quickly.

Large Group Dialogue

With Christopher and the entire Razor Mountain cabinet all seated around the conference table, there are fourteen people in the room during this chapter. This kind of large group dialogue isn’t something I have to do a lot, so it was an interesting challenge.

Most of the group hasn’t been introduced at this point, so I used Christopher’s faulty memory as an excuse to keep some of the secretaries anonymous for now. This limits the number of characters I have to introduce, and the number of characters the reader has to try to track.

I find that one of the best ways to keep the dialogue flowing is to be willing to adjust it as I go. I always have an idea of what I want to get across in a given scene, but I often rearrange the elements based on how I feel they would come up naturally in the conversation. I included some things in this chapter that I hadn’t initially planned to, because it felt like it would be strange for the secretaries to not ask certain questions.

Once again, it’s a balancing act in this book, because there are so many reveals to get to before the end. There are six (planned) chapters left, but that may change with some of the things planned for future chapters being pulled into this one.

The Detective’s Monologue

The detective’s monologue is a mystery trope where the main character reveals the answers to all the mysteries in a scene near the end of the story. This chapter felt a bit like that for Cain. He’s not pointing out the killer, but he is helping to explain the strange circumstances that led Christopher to Razor Mountain.

Meanwhile, Christopher reveals things that the other characters aren’t aware of, but the reader is mostly already familiar with. I could have tried to gloss over this, but I thought it might be beneficial to use this as a reminder of things that happened early in the story, so they’re fresh in the reader’s mind. The God-Speaker reveal also casts them in a different light.

Emotional Impact

Although this chapter (like the last couple) is mostly about getting across a lot of information, I did want to include an emotional twist at the end. Christopher has spent the entire book trying to get back home, and now his followers offer to bring him “home” within Razor Mountain. Christopher still isn’t going home. His homecoming is really God-Speaker’s.

In a lot of ways, this is what the remainder of the book is all about: how Christopher feels about becoming God-Speaker, and what he’s going to do about it.

Next Time

In Chapter 30, Christopher will have to start grappling with the changes going on inside his own head. And there’s still the issue of that pesky murderer skulking about.

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.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 27

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.

The Ol’ Switcheroo

This is it. The big reveal. The timelines have converged.

When I was working on the outline, I knew that I needed to show some of God-Speaker and Razor Mountain’s long history in the middle section of the book, but it quickly became apparent that I would have to limit the number of chapters dedicated to that history to not bog the whole thing down. However, I decided that I needed at least two chapters for this final part with Cain and Reed.

Firstly, I needed some time and words to build up these characters because of the pivotal role they play going into the last act. It also gave me the chance to set up a little twist. I placed Cain as the blatant bad guy, an echo of Strong-Shield, who had betrayed God-Speaker ten chapters earlier. I like to think I was a little more subtle in positioning Reed as a good guy, because he has God-Speaker’s implicit trust. That leads into the “small” twist when their roles turn out to be reversed.

The bigger twist is the nature of the connection between God-Speaker and Christopher. Admittedly, the structure of the book, following their two points of view, makes it pretty likely that there’s a connection there, but depending on how good of a guesser the reader is, it’s not clear what that connection is, or when it’ll be revealed. My hope, in layering the small twist and the big twist, is that the whole thing will be more impactful and feel like a bigger revelation. This, for me, is the most exciting part of the book so far.

This was a fun chapter to write, because it feels like I’ve been keeping a secret for a long time, and I no longer have to worry about accidentally giving it away. I’ve been perpetually worried that I’ll reveal something by accident. (I’ve accidentally swapped Christopher and God-Speaker’s names a few times, but as far as I know, I caught all of these slip-ups before posting. It still made me nervous that I’d miss one.

Beginning the End

This chapter is an inflection point: the end of Act II and the start of Act III. So the first thing it had to do was wrap up the middle of the book with an exciting reveal. But its other job is to usher in the final chapters by getting the reader interested in what is about to happen.

It provides some new questions to ask. How did Cain know about Christopher, and how exactly are Christopher and God-Speaker connected? What has happened between the cabinet members in the time since God-Speaker died, and is Reed still around? What exactly is Christopher going to do about all this?

That last question is a big one, because for most of the book Christopher has struggled to have some agency in what happens to him. A lot of shit happens to him—he’s a pinball in the first two acts. And while he makes decisions, it’s a little hard to tell how much those decisions are helping or hurting him.

My hope is that the reader is willing to accept that, for a while. But not forever. The protagonist has to have some control over what happens to him for the story to feel meaningful. The connection between God-Speaker and Christopher hints that he will have that chance in Act III.

Next Time

Having spent most of the book setting up mysteries, I’m thrilled to pretty much continuously reveal the answers for the remainder of the book. If writing Act II was like biking up hill, hopefully writing Act III will be more like coasting back down toward the big crash at the end.

See you in Chapter 28.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 26

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.

Q & A

My intent with Razor Mountain was always to write a “mystery box” story that actually resolved in a satisfying way. To do that, I created a starting premise with a lot of mysteries, and then made sure that I knew the answers—why everything was happening. In the first half of the book, most of my time was spent building up those mysteries. Now, as I approach the final act, it’s all about answering those mysteries.

I’ve long believed that it’s easier to create interesting mysteries than it is to resolve them, which is why so many mystery-centric stories fall flat at the end. However, in my hubris, I assumed that the hard work was in figuring out all the answers. Some of the feedback on early drafts of recent chapters has shown me that it’s not enough to just know the answer. The resolution has to come out in the story, while being clear enough that the reader doesn’t miss it, and organic enough that it doesn’t feel shoved-in just to make the story work.

So, one of the things I did while writing this chapter is to go back through my outline and review all of the things I set up early in the story, and make sure that I have plans for resolving them in the next few chapters. This chapter and the next one are important to some of these revelations, so it was a good exercise to do at this point in the story.

More Rearranging

I initially left out the third scene in this chapter. It was squeezed into the start of the next chapter because I was worried that it might reveal too much before the next chapter. This is part of the ongoing rearranging of the outline that I’ve been doing for the past few chapters.

However, when I began to write this journal I realized that the chapter felt purposeless without that third scene. Seeing Cain is interesting, because it’s a big link between the two narratives, but it’s not exactly a shocking stinger at the end of the chapter, and I would have had to be a little more coy in Christopher’s conversation with Speares to try to make it more of a revelation. The first two scenes are mostly the characters walking from A to B and talking, which is the same as Christopher’s previous chapter. Without the additional revelations and action at the end, it falls flat.

So once again I adjusted my chapters and pulled in that third scene.  I also decided that I can write it without quite giving up certain big secrets. But this scene combined with the next chapter will serve as the climax for Act II and set up Act III.

The Value of Journaling

Despite the power of ego, when I sit down to write one of these chapter journals I sometimes wonder how worthwhile it actually is. There are certainly times when feel that I don’t have much interesting to say about a given chapter. However, when I look back, it’s often when I’m working on a journal that I realize I’ve missed something or need to do some rearranging (as I did this week).

As it turns out, when I force myself to think about process enough to be able to articulate a journal entry, it helps me better understand the story I’m telling. Maybe that seems like it should be obvious, but it’s a lesson that I keep learning.

That’s partly because I originally intended these journals to be a sort of documentary—a way for other writers to peek inside my head and see what I was thinking, alongside the actual product. Not because I thought it would be a breakout bestseller and everyone would be interested, but because I can only speak for myself, and it seemed like a fun hook for the blog. I think there’s a real tendency among authors to want to keep the secret sauce secret, or to be so deep in the impostor syndrome that we don’t want to risk the potential embarrassment of opening up to others.

Now that I’ve been doing this for most of a book, I’m beginning to think that journaling through a big project will often be worthwhile for a lot of writers, even if nobody else ever sees that journal. As writers, we are used to thinking through a lot of things in text, and keeping up that meta-narrative has really helped me to understand the story I’m writing, and probably do a better job than I otherwise would.

It also occasionally serves as a record that I can return to, if I forget a decision I made, or an idea that I set aside that turns out to be important.

Next Time

The next chapter is a big one. Things are happening now.  It’s been a few minutes since Christopher’s life got worse, so I’m going to remedy that with some existential dread. It’s the end of Act II and the start of Act III. See you there.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 25

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.

Narrative Convergence

God-Speaker’s chapters throughout Act II have been jumping through time, showing key moments in God-Speaker’s evolution. They’ve also shown the evolution of Razor Mountain and its people. In this chapter, the narrative is finally approaching the present day. For the first time, we can start to see the same things from both God-Speaker’s and Christopher’s perspective.

This gives me the opportunity to set up some narrative tension by revealing things in God-Speaker’s chapters that will pay off in Christopher’s chapters. Sometimes tension comes from not knowing what will happen next. Sometimes it’s more exciting when the reader can guess what’s happening, but the characters don’t know.

God-Speaker’s Cabinet

The two new characters introduced in this chapter are Reed and Cain, and they are both members of God-Speaker’s cabinet. However, I looked through my notes and I had no record of what their actual positions are. I was certain I had thought about this when I was first developing the story, but it turns out that writing a book is a messy process, and I either lost those notes or never wrote them in the first place.

Internally, to the citizens of Razor Mountain, the cabinet is a secret arm of the US government that handles the day-to-day operations in the city. Only God-Speaker and the secretaries themselves know the truth about who runs the city. The populace “knows” that the secretaries report to a higher authority, but they’re told it’s the President of the United States and the military. God-Speaker doesn’t need to worry that the population will try to overthrow their autocratic king, because they don’t know that they have a king.

When deciding what positions there should be in this cabinet, I looked at the US presidential cabinet for inspiration. Razor Mountain is a sort of city-state, so a lot of those positions make perfect sense. Others are completely unnecessary (ambassador to the UN) and a few just need to be tweaked.

I wanted a large enough group to seem like a reasonable governing body, and to allow for interesting interactions between members.

These are the positions I ended up with:

  • Secretary of the Treasury – Responsible for overall budget, accounting, and income and outflows across all departments. Administers local banking system.
  • Secretary of Agriculture – Responsible for local farming and food processing. Works with the Trade Coordinator for food imports from outside.
  • Secretary of Commerce – Responsible for most non-food businesses internal to the mountain. Works closely with Secretary of Labor and Trade Coordinator.
  • Secretary of Labor – Responsible for labor conditions, allocation of labor across industries, work safety, etc.
  • Secretary of Housing – Responsible for maintaining and expanding housing supply within the mountain as needed for the population.
  • Secretary of Energy – Responsible for generation and distribution of electric power, lighting, and certain energy-related trade (batteries, generation equipment, etc.)
  • Secretary of Education – Responsible for the school and university system.
  • Director of Media – Responsible for producing local media, importing external media, censorship.
  • Director of Intelligence Operations – Responsible for gathering internal and external intelligence, as well as most external interaction with outsiders for trade.
  • Secretary of Science and Technology – Responsible for science and tech R&D, manufacturing, and external trade. Collaborates with Intelligence Ops for external hacking.
  • Director of Military Operations – Responsible for military within the mountain and the area around the mountain. Collaborates with Intelligence Operations for external military and espionage ops.
  • Trade Coordinator – Responsible for import/export and maintaining trade. Collaborates with Intelligence Operations for external negotiations and obfuscation.

I decided that Cain is the Secretary of Energy. He is very focused on his particular field, and is especially excited about developing and constructing new electric generation and distribution technology.

God-Speaker would be constantly thinking about how to balance power between the cabinet members, and play them off each other so that nobody can ever feel secure or think about turning against him. To this end, I thought he would avoid involving the Secretaries of Intelligence Operations and Director of Military Operations when it comes to investigating their fellows. Instead, he turns to Reed, the Secretary of Labor, who naturally collaborates with the Secretary of Energy on his big building projects.

Resolving Mysteries and Emotional Catharsis

My goal throughout most of this book has been to draw the reader in with a series of mysteries. However, it’s not structured like a classic “who-done-it.” It’s not building up to a revelation that wraps up the plot. Instead, in Act III I will be trying to rapidly resolve most of the open questions that have given the story momentum so far.

Unraveling these mysteries will reveal more about God-Speaker and Christopher, and those revelations will leave Christopher with some difficult things to do, and some difficult choices to make. The end of the story will not be about big mysteries, it will be about the choices Christopher decides to make and why he decides to make them.

This whole structure goes back to one of the big lessons I learned from Chuck Wendig’s Damn Fine Story: the big, world-shaking stakes should be tied directly to the main character’s “smaller” but more relatable personal stakes.

It will be up to Christopher to decide what the outcome is, for himself and for the world.

Next Time

Next chapter, we go back to Christopher as the two narrative worlds begin to collide.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 24

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.

Outlining is Hard

Once again, I am making small adjustments to the outline for the end of Act II. The end-result is two more big God-Speaker chapters, and one small Christopher chapter left to write. I don’t remember having to do much rearranging in Act I, but I feel like I’ve been doing a lot of it in Act II.

Originally, I decided to do more outlining up-front for Razor Mountain than I normally would. I wanted to make sure I knew all the answers to the questions so that I didn’t pull a LOST and write myself into a corner. In that sense, my outline has served me very well. I have a good idea of everything that I need to keep track of and reveal as I go.

The reason the chapters have changed is mostly to accommodate the flow of the story, which I don’t always have a good feel for until I’m actually in the middle of writing. What makes sense in the outline doesn’t always make sense as a sequence of scenes, especially as little things change along the way. So, I’m still writing everything that was in the outline, but slightly adjusting the order it appears in.

The fact that I have two different narratives in different time periods gives me some additional flexibility. Each narrative still follows a linear sequence, but I can choose how I switch between them in order to maximize the mystery or create the most tension.

Exposition is Hard

This chapter, much like the previous one, is a bit of an exposition dump in the form of conversation. I’m taking advantage of the assumption that Speares can be a little forthcoming with Christopher because he’s not leaving Razor Mountain, and anything he knows won’t be going back out into the world.

The challenge of Razor Mountain is that there is a lot of history and a lot of things I’ve had to figure out for the story to make sense, but it’s hard to get all of that across when most of the characters don’t actually know the truth about it. I also need to be careful of “prologue syndrome,” over-explaining all the back-story just because I know it and not because it’s necessary for the reader to understand the plot.

Next Time

The climax of Act II includes a two-chapter episode of God-Speaker’s story. The recent God-Speaker chapters jumped through time, but this bigger episode will give me room to introduce a couple new characters and jump into Act III with some big revelations.

Just in case anyone picked up on it—yes, it’s Jules Verne who wrote Journey to the Center of the Earth, not H.G. Wells as Speares says. She’s just not very well-versed in old-school “scientific romance” stories.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 23

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.

A Pyrrhic Victory

Christopher is out of the jail cell. He has escaped the grasp of Sergeant Meadows, and found a much more sympathetic ear in Specialist Speares (assuming she is actually what she seems). Still, he’s not exactly free—he’s traded a cell for a mediocre apartment, and it’s still unlikely that he’ll ever be able to leave Razor Mountain.

His only chance to help himself is to learn how to navigate the bureaucracy of the mountain and plead his case. Unfortunately, he knows very little about how Razor Mountain works.

Christopher also feels different after his torturous ordeal. He is, perhaps, a little more in control of himself, a little more Zen, even if he can’t exert much control over the world around him. The change in his character is still subtle, but I’ll be trying to bring it out more as the story continues.


This chapter is a turning point in the structure of the story. So far, Christopher has been doing nothing but ask questions, and in this chapter he’s getting some answers. They aren’t particularly good answers for him, but at least he has a better idea what’s happening.

On the other hand, the reader knows about God-Speaker, and something is still amiss with the story of the mountain that Christopher is receiving. My goal in this chapter is to start revealing a little more about the mountain while still making the reader wonder what happened in the years between God-Speaker’s chapters and the modern day. Then the last few chapters of Act II will reveal the answers to that.

Mysteries and Choices

This was one of the longer chapters that I’ve written in Razor Mountain. There is a lot of information to get across, and a good amount of dialogue.

This book is very uneven when it comes to dialogue. It was clear early on that there would be very little dialogue in the first half of the book. Christopher is alone in all of those chapters, with nobody to talk to except himself. God-Speaker’s tribe talks, but they’re not exactly loquacious.

As we work through Act II and introduce new characters, there is more and more dialogue. I expect it to continue to increase toward the end of the book. I always wanted a structure where the mysteries and questions steadily pile up for the first half of the book, and then more and more of them get answered in the second half.

I also realized at some point that the whole book won’t be driven solely by mystery. Before the end, all the big questions will be answered. The answers to those questions will then force the main characters to make hard choices, and the ending will be about those choices and their consequences. It’s nice to solve the mystery, but characters need to struggle and grow and change for the ending to really hit home.

Next Time

Christopher learns more about Razor Mountain, and may actually get some good news.

Razor Mountain Development Journal — Chapter 22

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.

Developing God-Speaker

In this chapter, I had two important things I wanted to accomplish. The first thing: showing a formative event for God-Speaker, where he once again loses someone close to him.

As I’ve mentioned previously, God-Speaker only gets about half as many chapters as Christopher in the book. This is partly because it draws out some of the mysteries, and partly because I want it to feel more like Christopher’s story than God-Speaker’s story.

In Act II, each of the God-Speaker chapters really needs to pull its weight in terms of developing God-Speaker’s personality, and revealing his long, long history. The challenge for me is that these chapters jump drastically through time and feature characters that only appear in a single chapter.

When a character dies, I usually want it to make a big impact on the reader. In the case of Strong Shield and Sky-Watcher, the reader barely knows these characters, and can’t really be expected to feel much for them. However, the purpose of these characters is really just to be foils for God-Speaker in different ways. They don’t have much development, but they have to help to build God-Speaker’s character.

Sky-Watcher accepts her own death with dignity, but God-Speaker does not. After all, he’s been alive for many lifetimes at this point, and he’s used to getting what he wants.

The Mechanics of Magic

The voices deep inside the mountain still aren’t completely explained. That’s a mystery that I want to draw out. However, there are plenty of hints about their origins that many readers will pick up on.

The voices provide God-Speaker with knowledge that would otherwise be far beyond human technological understanding at these points in time. This allows God-Speaker and his little civilization to excavate the underground city and make it livable.

The voices also give God-Speaker other powers, powers that seem to be beyond mere technological advancement. They give him the ability to live far beyond a normal human lifetime by transferring his consciousness to a new body. In this chapter, I also try to explain the mechanics of the “oracles,” specially trained people who can use the voices to move their consciousness through time instead of space.

I’ve found it a little challenging to clearly describe the mechanics of the “magic” while not making it feel like straight exposition. I may revisit this in a later editing pass.

Approaching the Present

In my outline, there are only two God-Speaker chapters left—in Act II and in the book as a whole. The final act of the book will belong to Christopher. These last two God-Speaker chapters will both take place in the same time period, bringing us within a couple decades of the modern day, in the final big time jump of the narrative.

This is an exciting part of the book for me, because it’s where the two main characters’ narratives finally come together. It also marks the point where a lot of the mysteries will be resolved.

Next Time

We’re back to Christopher for a long chapter. We’ll see a little bit of the modern state of the underground city, and see that things are not quite right. Christopher is still trying to get back home, but it seems less likely than ever that he’ll ever leave Razor Mountain.