As promised, here’s what needs to be done, in rough order. This might make no sense to you, but I know I have some readers that’ll find it interesting.
Plot refactoring comes first; normally I’d say characters except there were fewer criticisms of them than I’d expected. But the plot definitely needs work, especially the main plot. Especially on Venus and Mars, the actions of the protagonists and antagonists suffer a pretty extreme disconnect where Joanna and Eileen are merely reacting to imminent danger while Rosetta and Belt Group are planning ahead. They should be more directly at odds, or at the very least, dealing with the same situation.
A lot of sub-plots gain precedence over the main plot, a thing that should not happen. I’d hoped that they might function as little vignettes within the greater framework of the novel, but I don’t think that worked very well, and the readers agreed. All of my revisions have been the story of gradually tightening up and reintegrating plot points, and I’m just going to have to do that whole hog this time. No excuse.
Regarding the ending, I think that I was closer than I expected. Eileen and Joanna should capture the Atlas and use it to save the Free Jovians, not for Gracelove, but for the people. It’s also a final eff you to Belt Group if they happen to destroy the Atlas in doing so.
One thing that really needs work is Eileen’s plot in Part III. It’s gone through three major revisions already, and I’m still not happy with it. Neither were the readers. Changing it does allow me to kill two birds with one stone, however, since I can make it have more to do with Free Jove and the Atlas (which, ironically, it did in the very first version) and less about immediate concerns and new characters. This is going to be pretty tough because I have to invent it out of whole cloth, more or less.
After the large-scale plot refactoring comes work on the character arcs. As I mentioned, this won’t involve as much work as I was afraid of; things just need to be smoothed out. Joanna’s character progression needs a crowning moment of awesome, and Eileen’s feelings for Stephen need to be worked out in a way that changes her thinking for the rest of the story.
Oh, did I mention that her plot in Part III needs work? Because it does.
There are lots of little, incidental things that also need playing with. The Free Jovians are interesting, or so people say, so let’s put in some more information on them, shall we? Likewise, Belt Group is everywhere, so let’s drop in some more background, let’s say what it is that gives them so much influence. And UNASCA—where do they come from? Why do they have such power? These questions and more should be answered. Not in huge data dumps, of course, but naturally over the course the story.
Finally, the prose needs to be tuned up. Obviously the language is the very last thing I want to change, since it’ll take time and I don’t want to have to throw out any fine-tuning by suddenly realizing that there needs to be more plot work. It’s hard, lengthy work, but on the other hand, this is my favorite part of editing. It’s almost relaxing to me; it’s like doing a crossword puzzle, except that I get to make up the clues and the answers.
And that’s it. Tomorrow, I start on the actual work, starting from the very beginning. Fun times will be had. And the eight week countdown starts…yesterday.