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I have made good progress on the second draft of my book (tentatively titled Tessarene, after the mineral the crew is seeking). The biggest problem I wanted to correct was the one I described earlier where I jumped back and forth between tenses in the earlier chapters. I couldn't decide which worked better, and I had problems whichever way I decided to go.

I finally solved the dilemma by resorting to having the narrator use a "personal journal" (think captain's log) to record his thoughts, concerns, and some narration of background material that he would have no reason to be explaining to crewmates. This allowed me to use present tense where it worked better in many scenes, but stick to past tense for most. The only problem was in action scenes and those with dialog, where he wasn't likely to be recording in his diary. But so far there have been few such scenes and I simply changed those to past tense. This compromise seems to be working well for the story, so far. (The later chapters have no present-tense scenes, so I guess I'll have to add some to continue the journal entries throughout the book.)

I was also concerned that a few of the chapters were much longer than the others, so I eventually decided to divide chapters 2 and 4 into two chapters apiece. The resulting chapters stand on their own, so it wasn't simply a matter of chopping them for word count. I picked places where it would be appropriate for the chapters to end. I also split off the beginning of Chapter 1 into a Prologue, eliminating the weak transition I had before between the first two scenes.

As a result, I now have 18 chapters, a prologue and an epilogue, instead of 16 chapters and an epilogue.

I then began polishing the prose starting at the beginning. I'm presently at the end of (the new) Chapter 7, and I've added 2,000 words so far, a sentence or phrase here and a paragraph there, to fill in small gaps and add additional explanation where needed. So the story is up to 82,000 words now, and may well reach 84K-85K by the time I'm finished. (So much for my fears of not being able to reach 80K.)

So far, so good! I'll probably go back in Draft 3 and add a couple of short scenes to Chapter 3 -- as the oxygen is dwindling -- to heighten the tension, and maybe polish the dialog a bit more in Chapter 1, but otherwise I'm very pleased with the first 7 chapters. I figure another week or so and I'll be done with Draft 2.

Mark.
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