Reaving the Writing
So before we continue onward in our journey, a side trip on how this book is actually written. (This is going to end up across a couple of posts, so you’re warned.)
I decided early on that I would not be including the Nova Cats or the Wolf-in-Exiles. Somehow, because they were already cast out of the Clans, they didn’t seem appropriate here. Neither of them figured into any of the plots I’d constructed and since I’d made a conscious decision at the start to not rehash much of the Jihad material, they made little sense within the scope of the book.
Originally, my idea was to tackle each chapter in a Clan-by-Clan format. Using hard date stops, I planned on writing each Clan’s narrative from each start to stop dates. (What were those dates? December 12, 3067; November 4, 3071; December 1, 3071; July 29, 3074; December 31, 3075.) Done from the perspective of the Loremaster or a Watch Star Colonel, this would provide a skewed perspective of the main Reaving events, as well as “their side of the story” for the smaller conflicts. Sounds cool, right?
I thought so too. And while it sounds pretty cool, affording each Clan fan the chance to read their faction info straight through, it is incredibly difficult to write. I didn’t figure this out, however, until nearly two months into the process.
First, I had to pick apart the 44 page timeline I’d built up; more details were pinned down from 3067 through 3073, moderate detail for 3074 and 75, and nearly nothing but a few notations for 76 onwards. Going through the timeline, copying out relevant passages for each affected Clan…grew tiresome. But after two weeks, I had 14 different timelines, one for each Clan.
With the timeline pulled apart, it was also easy to see where the “holes” were within each Clan. Some, like the Scorpions, had practically zero events from early 3068 to one of the milestone points in late 3071. (Well, aside from that whole pesky Eridani thing.) Others, like the Wolves, had a huge amount of events up to a certain point, and then spun out into the Jihad. So each section would be varying in length.
Of importance this early was the rules section. And there are a lot of them, which needed to cover not just Total Warfare, but also A Time of War. I jotted down extensive notes on various new BattleTech equipment and weapons, a new OmniMech design family (three total new Omnis), and four ProtoMech designs. Also included were several ATOW-effect “weapons” in the form of chemicals and “lab experiments” that needed detailed. Rounding it off was a new anti-WarShip weapon.
I then passed the chapter on to Herb, who is much better versed in “rule-ese” than I. Plus, with new ProtoMech designs, we needed new construction rules. Herb needed to tackle those because the progeny of these Wars would see next-generation designs pop up in the next planned TRO: Prototypes.
Before I began, I also needed to examine the “when” and “why.” When would this report be taking place? 3150, just after Fortress Republic? That would make it more Historical in nature. Less “urgent.” It was the best approach, considering that in-game, no one knew of the Homeworld Clans from 3074ish onwards, so using the Republic would be an opening to allow the Inner Sphere (and the ‘universe’ at large) to learn of the happenings. Why the Republic needed to know was pretty generic: they were musing about another outside threat.
But I wasn’t really comfortable with that, partially for reasons I cannot discuss here regarding CGL’s future BattleTech plans. And partially because, to me, it cheapened the whole mystique we’d built around this time. Something so traumatic, so devastating needed to be treated with the same reverence and humiliation as the Not-Named debacle (and I’m not talking Betrayal of Ideals, either).
So that canned the after-the-Dark-Age idea. How, then, could we do it?
The best option, I believed, was to do it as a report given after the end of the Jihad, sometime around 3080. An all-purpose warning, sort of a “look, this is how badly messed up they are, let’s just not deal with them” report of the Homeworlds. Something to give evidence as to why the Inner Sphere Clans would shun their brethren, and could be repeated over and over for future leadership.
Herb and Randall liked that approach and green-lit it. The report would be tied together by one of the Spheroid Clan Loremasters. I gravitated to the Sharks, considering their reach and ease of acquiring the information necessary for such a compiled report.
Now that the “when” and “why” were answered, writing could begin.
It took about a month before I realized how difficult my original approach was going to be. Writing out the first Clan, Blood Spirit, from 3067 through 3072 was relatively easy. But as I progressed to other Clans, I found myself going back to what I’d written previously and making sure I had things correct. If one detail changed, the effect rippled through previously-written portions. And as I began a new Clan section…the effect magnified. (At one point, I had over twenty windows open on my laptop, from PDF files to specific emails to Excel lists to Word documents…it was chaos.)
It got frustrating and irritating very quickly. By mid-November, I’d had enough. About 25,000 words were written by this point; I wasn’t about to chuck them all, but they were all in the first person viewpoint. That is a very tough POV to use in a source book and if I abandoned my approach, I would either need to rewrite what I’d done or scrap it completely.
During the November-December-January stretch, I abandoned WOR. I had to; my other book needed completed. It was a welcome respite and allowed me to rethink the entire WOR concept.
At the end of February, I tried again. The material I’d written before would be salvaged; most of it would be changed to the standard source book viewpoint we use, that of third person (limited). It would be written in summary form, as if Diamond Shark Watch analysts had spent years pouring over data to construct a timeline and then summarize it. Using insertions by the Shark Loremaster, I could slip in additional detail, opinion, and asides. And a multitude of sidebars could be used to flesh out larger issues, such as a primer on Clan economics or a rundown of how the Dark Caste operated.
So I began again.
Using my master timeline as a guide, I began to reconstruct the narrative. Early on, I realized that this would allow me to also “cover” the gaps in time of some of the Clans. The problem was, I had several opposing voices going on in the completed Clan sections I had done. Initially, I simply used a sectional break to change the voice, though still altering the point of view from first to third. It worked, though progress was still slow.
About the end of March I completed the merging process. I’d also filled in the remainder of the Clan information for the first section, which detailed 3067 through the Tamar attack in 3070.
Then I read it.
It was bad.
Disjointed, incoherent, jumbled. The voice didn’t work. Discouraging, yes – but fixable. However, I would basically need to restart again.
(To be continued…)