Chapter 7 of Prophecies and Penalties

Read the chapter, then you'll understand!

Read the chapter, then you’ll understand!

Last chapter concluded with Milltown’s treasurer, Sonia Hoopes, dropping a bombshell in Emily’s lap. This time, it’s Tanya, Emily’s new servant, who does the unexpected. See why Emily needs three hands in “Love and Authority,” chapter 7 of Prophecies and Penalties. And if you haven’t been reading this weekly serial of murder set in a religious community, you can start with chapter 1 right here. A new chapter goes up each week!

One of the practices that made writing The Dragon Lady of Stockbridge: A Tale of Magic in the Gilded Age so much fun was that I was writing three chapters ahead most of the time. I think it helped me in plotting and writing, because I could review each chapter several times, figure out whether a plot thread was going to work, and change earlier chapters if a later chapter demanded it. It was one of my great disappointments last year that I wasn’t able to get ahead while writing Martha’s Children, and I think it adversely affected the quality of that story. I should have included more groundwork building up to the climax. In contrast, it hardly mattered that I was writing the chapters of Nightfeather: Ghost each day before they were due, because I had a firm grasp of the characters and plot from the beginning, better than I had for either of the two previous stories.

I’m hoping Prophecies and Penalties will benefit from both practices. While its plot is still evolving in my head, it’s already quite rich, and, yes, I do know who the murderer is and how the story will end. And I’ve finally gotten several chapters ahead again. So I’m feeling quite good about it right now.

Of course, I could still come a cropper . . .


About Brian Bixby

I enjoy history because it helps me understand people. I'm writing fiction for much the same reason.
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17 Responses to Chapter 7 of Prophecies and Penalties

  1. danagpeleg1 says:

    Seven is the magic number!

  2. crimsonprose says:

    I still marvel at your ability to write and post in ongoing fashion. Though I can see that the process imposes its own discipline and you don’t end up with seven versions of the story.

    • Brian Bixby says:

      The discipline has been developing as I write. Each story provides new lessons, some positive, some negative.

      P&P has been interesting that way. It originally started as a fragment, a shorter version of what’s now in ch. 1-8 and 10, but had no ending, because I’d never really figured out why Nash had been killed. And so there really wasn’t a story. Once I came up with a good reason why Nash was killed, one that made sense in constructing a story, the outlines of P&P became clear.

      So, while I’ve been making changes to P&P as I write, they have only served to reinforce the original design, not alter it as did some of the changes in DSL and MC. I hope that means I’m getting better at writing, at least in a technical sense.

      • crimsonprose says:

        It also means you’re not totally seat of your pants writer. Just not as fanatic about editing as me. But, yea, I know what you mean of endings. I remember advice for writers I once came across, don’t remember who was giving it; Write the ending first! As you say, if you have no ending, you have no story. It was the ending that held up FF for so long.

        • danagpeleg1 says:

          I’ve written three endings for my first novel. One of these endings was written very early in the process. I ended up not using them as the actual ending, but I did use them at very significant points along the novel. They were powerful! I must say that I wrote it in a very different manner. It came to me in pieces, and fell into place, very similarly to a puzzle: first it was little by little, and after a while it was easy to see the entire picture. My screenplay, which Brian read, was written much more systematically.

          • Brian Bixby says:

            Some of my stories have come as a unit, some in pieces, and some just evolved. DLS had a beginning, Abigail’s entrance, and an ending, but it changed while writing. Martha’s Children had an ending as its starting point, but what that ending meant changed as the story was written. Nightfeather was pretty much a whole. This story, P&P, had a start, I’ve conceived the ending, and written several intermediate episodes . . . every one of which will probably have to be rewritten as I go!

            • danagpeleg1 says:

              That’s one of the things I love about writing, the way the stories sometimes unfold themselves. It doesn’t have to be in a major way. It could be a little detail that occurs to you, and gives yoru character an unexpected edge, for example.

          • crimsonprose says:

            Sounds like a case of serendipity. It’s wonderful when that happens.

        • Brian Bixby says:

          Now that I’m sensitive to it, I’ve noticed far too many stories where the ending reads like something the author developed after writing the first 80% of the story, simply to have an ending.

          Of course, the challenge in writing the ending first is that one will probably have to change it repeatedly before one finishes the story! I have written P&P’s ending . . . or what I thought was the ending. It looks like it will probably run two chapters beyond what I’ve written. Doesn’t change the plot, more of a thematic expansion.

          • crimsonprose says:

            Generally my problem is to know when to stop – as evidenced in some of my comments! Rookeri wasn’t working until I chopped two chapters off the end. Amazing. With Neve I had an outline ending – enough to know what to aim for. With FF I did actually write the climax scene before finishing the second half (Bk 3, that is). So many ways to handle it, as we gain in experience so we know which way to go. I’m planning and researching a story now, and though I know the beginning and ending, I can’t get seem to connect the two.

            • Brian Bixby says:

              That sounds like my original situation re DLS. I knew Rebecca was going to defeat her opponents, but not survive. And I knew how the story started. But as I’ve said before, it took a twist around chapter 7/8 to make the story work well, and that I had not initially anticipated.

              • crimsonprose says:

                That’s one of the reasons I won’t post until the story is complete – first draft, 1st rewrite/edit/revise etc. I’ve found that, while I do another edit as I’m preparing to upload, I edit again once in situ. I was offered advice, as a final edit to alter the settings on e.g. Word – to increase the margins 4-fold, so the text sits in the midst of white space, and to change the font. You then can see the reality of what you have written, and that’s what happens when I upload from Word, to WordPress. And suddenly what I’d passed as ok, screams for attention. So now I’m less inclined to subject my stories to multiple editings before uploading. Hey, it’s saving time!

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