Dahveed 5: Yahweh's General

Dahveed 5. Wow! What a road this has been! I knew the book was long when I finished writing it, and it went to advance readers for the first time in July of 2013. It came back in August with a unanimous vote---it was terrible! Too long, the story line couldn't be followed, readers were lost in the sea of characters, and so on. It could all be characterized by the comment from one reader: "Simplify, simplify, simplify!"

I waited for a month, then sat down with the manuscript and took a long, hard look at it. It covers eight years of Dahveed's life, has (count them) 14 storylines taking place in 6 areas of action, and there is no chronological guidance in the Bible to follow. In addition, Dahveed sits in Judah for most of those years, marrying and having children. Not a whole lot to work with there.

I sharpened up my cutting tools, and proceeded to go over the manuscript scene by scene. When I finished that overhaul, I sat down and chopped off 55,000 words, WITHOUT EVER TOUCHING THE STORY LINE. Yes, this book needed to be edited!! Then I began a scene by scene analysis, and cut out a whole lot more.

After the Christmas holidays were over, I conferred with my youngest son, who is now a very good story critic, and we re-plotted the last half of the book. I re-wrote it, and then read the story to him. It didn't take long for me to get impatient with the flow of the story, and when I was done my son informed me that the last half of the book was reasonable, but now the first half needed fixing. He pointed out to me that any time the story switched to Dahveed, it got boring. Considering the fact that the book is supposed to be about Dahveed, this presented a major problem!

It was at this point that I realized I did not know how to plot a book. I'd never had to before. The basic plot had always been there for me, written in the Bible. But for these eight years of Dahveed's life, there was no plot! Thank the Lord that He had connected me with Lee Hough, my literary agent. Lee had given me a book when I was writing Dahveed 2 on how to write stories. I pulled it off the shelf, and re-read it. Then I took notes, and then I sat down with Dahveed 5 and started applying what I'd learned, beginning with articulating exactly what needed to change about each character in the course of the book, and other plot basics.

The process took months. Every scene had to be checked for every major character in it. Scenes with four major characters in them had to be analyzed for each character, making sure the scene worked for each one, and that it advanced the story line for each one. I had to start over at least four times before I had honed my technique to the point that it would work well for what I needed to do. This analysis showed up more entire scenes that needed to be cut, totaling another 12,800 words, and once that was done, I started at the beginning, re-writing the book to reflect the new, focused objective for every scene.

That inevitably brought out holes in the storylines which must be fixed. When I couldn't come up with a way to do that, I went to my son, and we would spend hours pinpointing the problem, suggesting fixes, discussing how those fixes affected other story lines, which would then need to be changed . . . There were times when it would take a total of eight hours to hammer out a one sentence change in a single scene. But that one sentence shifted the focus of the scene and moved the story forward in a way that dovetailed with events further along in the story far better than before. That, in addition to combining scenes, and tightening the story lines still more, resulted in another 104,400 words being cut, making Dahveed 5 256,000 words total. The book itself is bigger because of the 21,000 word appendix!

When that was done, I printed the manuscript, and my son read it. He said it was good. I read it again, and I agreed. I sent it out to more advance readers, and this time every comment was positive, affirming that I had fixed the problems with the first draft!

So, at last, the manuscript went to the editor. And then . . . and then . . .

Knowing that I had some time, and thinking that continuing education would be a good thing for me as an author, I began watching a series of lectures by Dr. Brooks Landon of the University of Iowa, entitled "Building Great Sentences." The first lecture nearly blew me away, and by the time I was half done, I'd already seen several ways I could use what I was learning in the Dahveed manuscript! Then I received an e-mail from my editor, saying he was expediting the job, and it would be done in another five days instead of four weeks!

That precipitated a frantic three weeks of applying changes my editor made, changes other advance readers made, changes I was making (beginning with chapter 39!) due to what I had learned from the first half of the lectures, learning even more to apply as I listened to the last half of the lectures, realizing I was now going to have to revisit the first 38 chapters while still getting the book to the printer by the promised deadline . . .

Did you notice that word "frantic" up there? Once the manuscript was at the press, it took nearly 5 days for me to wind down. My old printer can't handle files the size of Dahveed 5, so the first time I saw the manuscript printed in book form was the book proof. After an hour of paging through that, I had a list of design problems that needed to be fixed, and while I was working with those, I found even more. Life was entertaining!

But, everything did get done, and the book came off the press on time---Thank the Lord! (Latest update. There were two design problems that slipped by, and are present in the first printing. Can you find them?)

I hope you enjoy the story. This book has been the most labor-intensive one so far. I estimate I re-wrote it nearly three times. Now I'm going to take a vacation, give myself a rest from all things Dahveed before I start thinking about Dahveed 6 and Eliphelet, and Zaavan, and Michal, and Rabi-Sillashu, and those copper mines down in Edom, and Bathsheba. Yes, Bathsehba. Now with her, I could . . . NO! Not now! I'm going to clear my mind! I'm going to ignore Hadadezer, and Sithri, and , , , aarggghh!