Back in August and September, my agent Emily and I worked on getting Icarus Down ready for submission. This was very much a "take-things-apart-and-put-them-back-together" revision. It clarified a number of plot points, and it smoothed out Simon Daud's character development. It also added about 8000 words to the final count, making this my first single manuscript to top 100,000 words.
In the middle of November, Emily came back to me with a secondset of revisions. They were primarily line edits, three suggestions on how to cut down the word count, and one lingering question that threatened suspension of disbelief. Fortunately, the bulk of my work-for-hire commissions finished up a couple of weeks beforehand, so I was able to concentrate on this.
Let me talk a bit about the part where Emily had difficulty suspending her disbelief. There's a part in Icarus Down where Simon goes looking for a piece of evidence that he hopes will resolve the questions around a possible conspiracy against his family once and for all. He finds it, and rather than settling the questions as being all just part of his imagination (the answer he'd prefer), it raises more questions.
In the old version the prime suspect behind the conspiracy chooses that moment to show up looking for the piece of evidence Simon has discovered in the hopes of destroying it. Simon gets the confirmation he needs, and ends up arrested for his troubles.
Nope, says Emily. Not buying it. Why would the guy just show up right then and there? Why would he wait nine months to destroy this piece of evidence? Is there any way we can get Simon arrested without doing this?
The thing is, this whole sequence was to address an earlier flaw in the suspension of disbelief. Earlier, with questions mounting, Simon decides to just up and confront Nathaniel in his office. He then stumbles upon evidence that mass arrests are being planned. Too easy, said beta readers. And, again, too reliant on coincidence.
So, what to do? What to do?
What if I combined the two approaches? Simon looks for the evidence that indicates there is a conspiracy against his family and, once he finds it, he does something reckless and stupid (but, hopefully, in character), and confronts Nathaniel about it?
Here's what I drafted. I hope you like it.
The Mayor's Offices never closed. Nevertheless, the night receptionist looked very surprised to see me. I was past his desk and almost to the hall leading to the offices before he even stood up from his seat to shout, "Hey! You can't go in there!" I ignored him. I saw a light on behind the window on the door marked "Chief of Security". Of course he would work late. I pushed forward, and the receptionist scrambled to chase after me.
The receptionist caught up to me just as I burst threw the door and threw the arrival logbook on the desk in front of Nathaniel. "Did you think this wouldn't come out?"
Nathaniel blinked at the logbook. Then he trained his grey stare up at me. I didn't flinch. I glared back at him. Nathaniel glanced at the receptionist, who was gripping my arm. "Thank you, Mr. Pall. Leave us a moment."
Still frowning, the receptionist let go of my arm and backed away. He closed the door behind us. Nathaniel looked back at me. He cocked an eyebrow. His mouth quirked up in a small smile. "To what do I owe the pleasure of this visit, Mr. Daud?"
"Is it true?" I snapped. "Are security teams behind the misdeliveries? Are you doing this to discredit the Grounders?"
He laughed, but his eyes were cold. "I have no idea what you are talking about."
"Don't give me that!" My voice rose. "People know about the device that flipped the tubes. They know a security team went into those ducts before the sabotage started. And on the day a fault just happens to down my ornithopter, carrying me and my brother, you head on a trip to Daedalon and come back an hour later, alone, hopping a routine freight run. The evidence is out there. You really think people wouldn't notice? Why are you doing this?"
It might have seemed unusually brave to speak out like this, and I'm not. I just play by the rules, remember? But what do you do if you see the man who enforces the rules - brother to the man who makes them - not playing by them? All I could do was speak up. Which is what I was doing.
And for just a second, I saw a look pass through Nathaniel's eyes: guilt, mixed with rage, and I knew that what I thought about him was true. But then he steepled his fingers and looked through them. After a moment's silence, he said, "Mr. Daud, let us say, for a moment, that I am at the center of a great conspiracy against your family and the Grounders. Let us also say that this logbook you have found is proof of that conspiracy. Let us say all of this is true." He rested his chin on his hands and looked up at me with a smile. "You seem to have charming faith that I would be bound by due process."
And that's how I found myself thrown in jail.