I have cut just under 26k from a 129.5k manuscript. I'm torn between a euphoric sense of accomplishment, and grinding guilt that I let anybody--still less anybody I hold in affection--read 26 thousand unnecessary words.
I am so sorry. Really. I will never do it again. The gratitude part just makes me feel worse about it.
The next step is to re-enter at the first chapter and go through, pausing at the angle brackets to hammer home various elements that were scanted.
Clarifying the material culture of Nomency and environs--I hadn't considered that the default tech level for a fantasy is, say, 13th-15th c. Western Europe. Willow Knot, being a Grimm fairy tale (Grimm 11, Brother and Sister), is set in late 1700s Europe, roughly during Kleinstaaterei, something before the time the Grimms were collecting stories. This won't automatically occur to most readers, so I need to drop more clues about the material culture, earlier on.
Establishing that religion exists, without making religion a big honking issue. I've changed 'the Dear' to 'the Dear Lord' throughout, and hopefully that will do most of it. I can't count on an audience who know all the words to I Know Where I'm Going.* I'm still worried that US readers (okay, humour me briefly in the delusion that I will have readers I don't already know personally) see evangelical Protestantism as the model of religion good or bad, and will be bemused or unconvinced by any faith less insistent. But there is nothing I can do about that. For sure I can't write an equivalent to 1700s German states without religion. It would be like writing the European Middle Ages without religion--that gives you the Society for Creative Anachronism.
That was a joke, but never mind.
Clarifying why Myl is paranoid about being indebted. First to another person, because of Midame reminding her how grateful she should be, and how she owed her aunt obedience and affection--which is part of what messes up her relationship with Alard. Then to any creature in the Maerchenwald, because the stories are pretty clear that if you take without asking, or take without paying, the thing you took is going to bring you down. I can't assume that level of folktale knowledge in a reader, so it needs to be reiterated beyond the once or twice.
Laying in the clues of Midame's 'rescue' of the unborn child, via what Myl witnessed and partially remembers, which is also how she learned to hear spells running in water--this will be a tough series to complete without being either too obscure or clunkily obvious. If I can do it, it will wrap things up very tidily.
Establishing that Alard and Myl do not marry for love, and maybe clarifying that no one of their class and time would expect to.
Alard marries her out of guilt, in an attempt to set things right, to close the question of alliance with Lusantia, to get an heir, and to use her supposed gift for unsealing. He doesn't explain any of this to her, so establishing it is going to be more than a little difficult, working from her pov.
Myl marries him in hope of freeing Tyl from enchantment, to restore her family's estate, and because refusing the king is usually a bad idea.
I sure hope nobody reads this looking for a tale of True Love and Soulmates. They do love each other by the end, but--.
Laying in the groundwork for the plot against Alard, the example of the duke of Valdosa in his extravagance and how he finances it, and the resentment of Fadric and others that they can't use his method because Alard forbids it.
Concentrating the exiles subplot on Lusantia, with Valdosa being the impulse for the regicide subplot. It may still be too complicated, but I guess I'll find out.
Building Truda's manipulation of the ladies in waiting, which will be tricky because it happens out of Mylla's sight. I laid some clues in Donvina's outburst, but probably not strongly enough.
I've made it more obvious that Truda is the one who tells Alard about the sweetmeats--did anyone wonder why she was so quick on the spot after Alard told Myl off and went off in a huff? And why Mylla went into labour so soon after Truda's posset? Nobody commented on it, but maybe that means it was perfectly clear.
Simplifying Baldolf's aims. I was still working out what he wanted in the second draft, and by the end of it I knew, but if I'd gone back to trim out the false leads, I would have started rewriting the whole damn thing and it was time to step back.
Resolution: never let anyone see anything earlier than the 3d draft ever again.
Doubtless there's more - oh, the scene where Lina warns of the witchcraft rumours will be revised from a simple meeting in the garden to a full-out fight between two of the ladies-in-waiting, over one encouraging the extravagance mentioned above. I've realised that I will have two 'shower scenes' and a catfight, and an unplanned pregnancy. Exploitation fairy tale!
Anyway, Willow Knot draft 3 sits at 103.6k, and I figure I can go up to 110k while filling holes and polishing. Ideally I'll finish that process before our pre-technological Living History Week at Fort Rodd Hill. That's the end of this month. Excuse me while I gird my loins.
*'I know where I'm going,
I know who's going with me.
I know who I love,
But the Dear knows who I'll marry'