Answering a question about the Dragon Court Book

Elizabeth asked: Is Cast in Chaos the Dragon Court book?

I started to answer this in comments, and then realized that it was going to be a long answer, so I’m breaking it out into its own post.

First, the quick answer:  Cast in Chaos is not, sadly, the Dragon Court book.  I do have an explanation, although it doesn’t actually change that answer >.>.

Part of the problem with the Dragon Court book is that there has to be textual room for the actual lessons before Kaylin meets the Emperor, because at the moment, she won’t survive.  In order for her to survive as-is, I would have to change the Emperor.  A lot.  And while I could, because he hasn’t yet appeared on the page, my sense of who he is is fairly strong, so it would be a big, behind-the-scenes, internal shift.  So, back to lessons…

Those lessons in and of themselves aren’t quite large enough or significant enough that they could occupy an entire novel.  This pushes them into subplot territory.

So, I wrote the beginnings of those lessons as a subplot for Cast in SilenceCast in Silence ended up being TDL (too darn long).  Way, way too long.  This meant that instead of adding subplot, I had to look at seriously cutting words, and the first and easiest 12k words to cut were, in fact, subplot words.

When approaching a manuscript in order to cut words, I make a list of scenes that might not be necessary.  (I also cut paragraphs or sentences as I go.)  The only criteria required for a scene to make the “possible cut” list is that the individual book will make sense without those scenes or words.  I then take the list of possible cuts and I present them to my alpha readers, and we discuss every single cut, and what we gain (less words) or lose (less impact) by those cuts.  Sometimes a cut that would make sense on an individual book basis makes zero sense on an overall series basis.  About which, more later.  For the moment, let’s return to the problem of the Etiquette Lessons subplot.

The words I did write for Cast in Silence couldn’t be used — at all — because at the time, Tiamaris had also been dragooned to sit in on the classes (Diarmat is not and has never been Tiamaris’ biggest fan).  Since he ended up where he ended up at the end of Cast in Silence, those words had to be quietly thrown away, and new words and a new situation were required.  This, on the other hand, is not onerous.  I had finished Cast in Silence and was working on Cast in Chaos, and I knew that I had to work the subplot of etiquette lessons into that book.

So, I duly began to write etiquette lessons, again, into Cast in Chaos.  However, Cast in Chaos was, once again, TDL.  And once again, not by a small number of words.

So, once again I was left with the option of desperately searching for Things That Can Be Cut So That The Book Makes Sense.  And it came down to a choice between cutting the Etiquette Lessons subplot, or cutting the scenes with Nightshade, which are vastly more relevant to the events in Cast in Silence than they are to the immediate events in Cast in Chaos.  However, although I didn’t put this out to vote, I could hear screams at the very hint of the possibility.

Let me now go back to cuts that make sense for an individual book, but that don’t make sense for the overall series, having given that particular example.  One of the things that makes writing a series fun is that there are elements and interactions between various characters that can play out over time, the way they often would in real life.  The other is that the world and its significant elements don’t have to be revealed in one large chunk up front; they can be discovered as they become relevant to Kaylin.

Characters can make both friends and enemies, and those friends–or enemies–become part of their world, returning or leaving as the particular story allows.  If there are no causal interactions, no building relationships, no touching of bases with some of these other characters in future books, there’s no sense of growth at all.

Those elements of growth aren’t completely necessary for the individual books themselves, but I feel strongly that they’re necessary for some sense of where the characters are, and where they might go, in future books.  I want the characters to change and grow in a believable way; I know not everyone feels that this has happened to date, but that’s what I’ve been trying to do.

However!  Third time lucky, right?  Cast in Ruin pretty much starts with the first Etiquette lesson.

And:  I’m sorry, Jessica, but Cast in Chaos is definitely scheduled for August 2010, which would be exactly a year from when SILENCE was released.  I am writing as quickly as I can >.<

26 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Elizabeth
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 05:04:12

    Thank you for answering my question. I really appreciate it.


  2. jess
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 11:01:00

    hey im a huge fan of kaylin and the whole elantra series, i cant wait for cast in chaos i was just wondering if theres an exact release date in august 2010 yet? =)


  3. hjbau
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 20:46:51

    TDL. Too darn long. I enjoyed that.


  4. lyssabits
    Nov 30, 2009 @ 22:52:57

    Even though I know there are folks who’d probably vastly prefer seeing the Dragons earlier than more Nightshade.. I’m thankful you made the choice you did. ;) I think the reveal in Silence was so massive and changed so many things about the way I’ve been forced to think about Nightshade’s motivations towards Kaylin.. to not get enough reflection on said events would have been sad. I’m very excited to meet the Emperor, but I feel like my appetite for him is merely stoked by the wait, not frustrated.

    Was this decision in any way influnced by the fact that it kind of seemed like the publisher might have painted you into a corner with the little blurb at the end of Silence about tuning into Cast in Chaos for Nightshade’s reaction? ;) What a shock it would have been to read the next book only to find Nightshade’s reaction had to be cut for space!


  5. jessica
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 03:50:33

    thank you!:/
    if i have to wait for a year
    you cant cut out nightshade he is one of the best characters he is one of the main reasons i read the book and kaylin of corse!!!!!!
    just saying… :)


  6. Samantha
    Dec 01, 2009 @ 17:10:05

    Great Post!! :)
    TDL: Too darn Long…. is there such a thing for Elantra Chronicle fans?? lol
    I was looking forward to “meeting” the Emperor but at the same time I can’t say I’m disappointed that we’ll get more Kaylin/Nightshade interaction.
    There’s lots of various theories going about on some of the hints we were given in Cast of Silence and how they would develop in the next few books, I’m looking forward to seeing if I hit close to the mark with my wild guesses!!


  7. Carol Duffy
    Dec 02, 2009 @ 17:36:30

    Granting the analogy that a writer is to his/her work as a Dragon is to his/her hoard, (i.e. has the absolute and unassailable right to plot, timing, characters, words, the conclusion that something is TDL) might I humbly suggest, at the risk of being reduced to ash, that the entire concept of TDL might not translate to either your West or your Sagara readers?

    In other words, I don’t think we’re much of a “less is more” bunch when it comes to your writing.

    Just sayin”…


  8. Julie Griffith
    Dec 04, 2009 @ 07:18:52

    I must agree with Carol. None of the Elantra books have been anything like too long. I’d be happy with quite a bit more. However, I must point out that the obvious solution to writing more (this is all in the name of getting to read more books more frequently!) is that you should learn how to clone yourself. With any luck then we’d get 2 books a year! (I know. I know. Wishful thinking.)


  9. RKCharron
    Dec 06, 2009 @ 02:44:37

    Thank you for the informative post.
    All the best,


  10. natasha
    Dec 08, 2009 @ 23:16:56

    i don’t know if you have already answered this but will you post the first chapter of cast in chaos ? and if so when?


  11. Aaron
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 09:19:24

    This may sound like an odd question, but:

    Do you know the endings of your stories?

    I know you often talk about letting your characters grow and integrate and evolve. I think that’s what makes them wonderful. But, I’ve been rereading “The Broken Crown” and while I agree that it’s one of your most spare, and at the same time most dense works, it doesn’t seem to have a vision for the overarching story.

    I.e. do you know what the final scene will be, a la Robert Jordan? Or, does it continue to evolve in your mind?


    P.S. Ironically this question came up because I was thinking of your recent post w/re to the Dragon Emperor. The same kind of question applies. Do you really have a firm picture in your mind of Kaylin’s meeting with the Dragon Emperor? Or, is this something that will “happen” as you write it?


  12. Michelle Sagara
    Dec 09, 2009 @ 21:12:56

    i don’t know if you have already answered this but will you post the first chapter of cast in chaos ? and if so when?

    I’ve submitted the book to my editor, but it hasn’t gone through its many stages of editing yet. There will be revisions request, after which line-editing and copy-editing are done. After that, the AA’s, at which point the book will be finished completely.

    I’m not sure when the last of these stages will occur, so I can’t give a definite date, but I generally try to post a chapter that’s as close to the published book as possible, so it will be after the last of the editorial passes.


  13. Michelle Sagara
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 00:56:14

    Aaron, I’m not sure that I understand the question about Broken Crown. Do you mean that there’s no overarching vision of story in the self-contained first book? In the context of the entire Sun Sword, or in the whole thing, beginning to end?


  14. Aaron
    Dec 10, 2009 @ 05:36:56

    I’m sorry if I wasn’t clear. The question wasn’t so much about The Broken Crown in particular as the Sun Sword/Essaliyan universe as a whole (and indirectly the Elantran universe as well).

    It’s obviously an epic story; no one person is going to know *exactly* how it ends until it does… However, I found that when reading The Broken Crown (and then your most recent post about Kaylin’s education) that there is a sense of ‘hesitancy’ about where the overarching plot is moving.

    I simply wanted to ask you if you *knew* where all of the characters eventually end up. Or, if even the endings themselves have yet to evolve?


  15. Wendy Good
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 19:57:08

    TDL absolutely does not apply to anything in the Elantra universe, or anything you write, for that matter. I love spending my time with Kalyin and Savern and Nightshade and Marcus Cassan and Marrin and everyone else so much that I am simply cycling through the whole series, one after another, till the next one comes out. Will an unabridged version ever be available? Waiting till August for Cast in Chaos is an exercise in patience that is agonizing. Please don’t wait a whole year to publish the one after it if you possibly can.


  16. Wendy Good
    Jan 06, 2010 @ 23:02:59

    I can’t wait to find out what Kaylin does with the cloak that Nightshade discarded because it got caught in the entrance to the tower and Kaylin cut it free and stored it in her pack. Severn told her a long time ago to get a cloak and it would cover her clothes when they weren’t so nice. Or, will she add it to the growing collection of gowns that Nightshade has given her (two to my count so far) that she doesn’t seem to ever wear again. . .


  17. Hilda D. Rodriguez
    Jan 10, 2010 @ 20:28:24

    I have been a murder mystery fan for 50+ years, and a science fiction fan for @10, with some nice romances in between them. My collection of over 1,000 book includes lots of those. I discovered you and Cast In Secret about last Oct. It’s hard to find your books in either Border’s or Barnes. Went loony when I couldn’t find more. My son saved me by ordering the rest from Amazon. I also ordered your complete Sundered series.
    Since then, I’m in the third reading of the complete Elantra series, which is an advantage because I can see more and more details. It’s the most intriguing series ever, and I keep wondering about what is to come.
    Love Lord Nightshade, who is a great combination of Georgette Heyer’s older and omniscient Monsieur Le Duc of Avon and J. D. Robb’s Roarke’s, who left his life of crime for Lt. Dallas. Will Nightshade discover another source of wealth to win Kailin’s love? Will he realize that his long life gives him, besides lots of wisdom, the patience to not treat Kailin at times like a grandfather?
    Is Severn the classic “Guardian”? Even Nightshade trusts him with Kailin’ safety and is not jealous? I think he knows where Severn came from.
    Why Kailin never tells the main characters how often the strange characters call her “Chosen”. I think once they know, many other background clues will fall in place and she will understand herself better.
    I’m looking forward to find out: (1)which is Kailin’s “chosen weapon that she needs to master” (Lord of the Green);(2) Is Kailin like Melianos? the first time the Dragon sent her fire it parted around her without Nightshade’s sword; (3) what is there in the other fiefs (one per book) and in the “other world” connected to Ravellon; (4)is Liatt, the human woman lord of the Liatt fief, Kailin’s “real mother”; if so, can she die and leave Kailin with that fief.
    I’m looking forward to find the answers to those question.
    100 more pages per book is perfectly ok with me. Keep writing them, please. At 70 I have few things to look forward to.
    Thanks for all the fun!!!


  18. Sammie
    Mar 04, 2010 @ 18:00:55

    Hilda where in the book was the clue that Liatt was Kaylins real mother???. I think I Missed it. I love Kaylins sense of humour some of the stuff she picks up has me in stitches from laughing.


  19. Marie-Soleil Breton
    Mar 09, 2010 @ 18:02:30

    The Chronicles of Elantra is a wonderful story. I can’t wait to know more.
    I think I read each book a least 4 times already.
    I am looking forward to see which between Nightshade and Severn, Kailin will choose to love.
    I am wondering if Kailin even realised Severn is in love with her.
    Anyway, I greatly admire your work and as I want to be an author myself I am thankful for the answer you gave to some previous question.


  20. Nicolle
    Mar 22, 2010 @ 09:53:48

    First of all, I LOVE ALL YOUR STORIES! I finished the cast series in like a week and am now reading the sundered series, which was incredibly difficult to find btw. So far, it’s even more amazing than I expected!

    On the post, I am SO GLAD you didn’t cut the Nightshade scenes. He is like my FAVORITE character in the whole series. Those screams you heard, yeah they were mine! You should never cut out Nightshade, ever, for no reason. He is just way too awesome.:) I keep on wondering about the whole bond thing between them and what it means…Which reminds me, when are we gonna see some romance for poor Kaylin? I mean, between Severn and Nightshade you’d think she’d at least wonder….any chance we might see SOME sort of development in cast in chaos??


  21. JaceyLane
    Mar 25, 2010 @ 01:43:31

    I’ve just finished re-reading all of the Cast books to date (although I wish the urge had struck a bit closer to August, because the anticipation is agonizing), and it struck me that one of the great things about this series is that every time I read it, I only love it more. A lot of times I have the opposite reaction, and that’s always a disappointment, but I’ve yet to have that problem with these books… and they’ve got some definite wear around the edges by now!

    Can’t wait for Cast in Chaos!


  22. b020
    Apr 05, 2010 @ 14:46:07

    Thanks so much for your hard work. I really enjoy the Elantra series and besides Hilda’s questions, mine are: how much time has passed between books? How old is Kaylin?


  23. i
    Jun 10, 2010 @ 23:49:51

    kaylin is still 20. and is cast in moonlight a book in the chronicles of elantra?


  24. MorensLucy
    Jun 11, 2010 @ 11:13:54

    Good morning, I am a fan French!! But I despair because the editor in suspended the collection and I am threatened to know never the suite of Cast in Fury…
    It’s dreadful. What are resolutions to know suite?
    Thank you very much dear writer.


  25. Carly
    Jun 13, 2010 @ 23:14:32

    I reread the first books after reading Cast in Silence it was even better the second time.
    I did catch, that is sounds like a romance between the Lord of the March is coming up. As cool as that would be, I’d be disappointed if Nightshde never worked out as a romance since he’s the main continuing thread in the books. I would hate him to turn evil, it’s too much of a switch from how he’s been up until now. Tamara Pierce switches her main men around in her books and it can be frustrating at times as a reader.


  26. sara thorne
    Jul 05, 2010 @ 18:32:00

    I absolutely love the Chronicles of Elantra books. They are my favourite read. I’m eagerly awaiting the new book to be released. Will you be publishing an excerpt chapter on the website?


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