(Re)writing GotH II

The second excerpt for The God of the Hive is here, with more to follow on the 27th of February and March. For those curious about the creative process (who among us is not?) each will be followed by a post showing the first draft of that section, with brief remarks about the rewrite process. I will take care to avoid major spoilers, but if you wish to preserve the absolute purity of the eventual reading experience, I suggest you stop now and just stick to the excerpts themselves, and return to the (Re)Writing posts after you’ve read the book in May. Click on the images below to enlarge.

The rewrite of what is now Chapter Two illustrates the various goals of the rewrite process, from language to pacing to the bigger picture.

Part of the changes between first draft and finished version were made with an eye to the rhythm and authority of the language. To add The young captain looked as if he was clinging to the wheel as much as controlling it underscores the violent motion of the boat, motion that is an essential part of the change in Holmes’ intentions. And to say scarlet stains could be seen around the dried blood on the bandages is weak, both because of the arrangement and the passive voice. Much stronger to say, the dressings showed scarlet, just as to reduce the motions of the boat is better as simply, to calm the boat.

Adding the paragraph about Russell and the threat in Thurso is in some ways a distraction, as any backstory/explanation is, but I decided it was necessary to link this chapter with Russell’s, and to make it clear that their actions are illicit and illegal.

Chapter Two as it stands was cut out of a larger section, with the remainder shifted to become chapter five (which I am not showing here, since the excerpt does not include that part.)

When I looked at my seven page first draft, which carried the action through to the afternoon, I realized that I needed to begin instead with a brief and telling touch onto each set of characters. As I mentioned in my remarks about excerpt one, unlike the other Russell books, The God of the Hive is told from multiple points of view: Russell and the child going off in one direction, the two as-yet nameless men—prisoner and captor—in London, and now, Holmes at sea with his wounded son.

So, chapter two was pared down to three brief pages on a fishing boat, and the purpose of the chapter shifted from story line to a dash of plot with a hefty dose of sensation and contrast: We saw Russell literally wrapped around a small child on a tightly circumscribed island, but here we are with three rough males fighting the open sea. There in chapter one, all was dim and quiet and (for those familiar with Mary Russell) unexpectedly, even startlingly feminine; here all is violent motion, pressing noise, imminent death, and threefold masculinity. We have whispers in one and shouts in the other; the crunch of gravel versus wildly swinging cabin fittings; but in both, a powerful, even visceral determination to protect the person at hand.

Herein lies a key element of The God of the Hive: Sherlock Holmes as an emotional creature. We met his unknown son in The Language of Bees, but the two men spent most of the book keeping each other at a distance. Now, circumstances force them together, and with proximity comes an awareness of the other man as a person, and as a connection.

And this, not any plot element or unfinished thread, is why the previous book ended on the note, To be continued…


  1. Meredith on January 29, 2010 at 1:04 am

    Whoop! (a) my friend Debbi and I have been pining to know what Holmes said to Damian as they took off at the end of LANG. Evidently we will hear that. AND we get a lot of time in which they hold still and must actually talk to one another. (poor Holmesian males, it will like to kill them.) Bliss.
    shifting from fan girl to budding writer:
    (b) That’s why, dear ma’am, you have such elegant prose. Thanks for the look at the process.
    best to all//Meredith

  2. jtb1951 on January 29, 2010 at 5:57 am

    The sneak peeks at your art of writing are quite interesting (especially for someone like me who doesn’t have much writing skill) and a terrific bonus for all of your fans. I know of very few writers who are as generous with their readers as you are. Thank you so much for sharing!!


  3. Pat Floyd on January 29, 2010 at 6:41 am

    Laurie, your description of your writing process is itself a marvelous example of clear, concise, and eloquent writing.

    John, your modesty about your writing is belied by your performance.

  4. Merrily on January 29, 2010 at 8:42 am

    This was wonderful and I was interested to see you mention something I’d picked up when I read it, that is, that we are seeing “Sherlock Holmes as an emotional creature.” We know he is, but ah, this is a man who is all about control, and it’s fascinating to see him in a situation where control may be elusive.
    And I concur with your view on the passive voice!
    This is obviously going to be another wonderful book!

  5. Anna Elliott on January 29, 2010 at 2:35 pm

    That was fascinating. Can I ask whether you consciously planned out that masculine/feminine whispers/shouts contrast before you started writing, or whether it was more an intuitive choice of knowing how the story needed to be told? Either way, it’s lovely!

  6. Laurie King on January 29, 2010 at 2:58 pm

    The comments are for the most part a retrospective view–ah, this must be what I was aiming at–rather than a description of conscious decision-making. Generally, I go with the gut, and later look at why I made certain choices.

  7. Strawberry Curls on January 29, 2010 at 3:00 pm

    Laurie, your “gut” serves you well. These postings are, as others have said, facinating. Thank you for being so open with your process.


  8. Maude on January 30, 2010 at 2:55 pm

    Thanks but I want to read the finished novel first. Then I’d like to go back and look at the process. So I’ll wait, more or less patiently, for the published book. When can we start pre-ordering? Both the book and the audio version, CDs or cassettes preferred, though I do finally have an Ipod.

  9. Laurie King on January 30, 2010 at 3:03 pm

    Pre-orders of the hardback can be made at most of the places on the “store” page–https://laurierking.com/the-store
    I am assured that the audio version will be available for download on the pub date, and as CDs soon thereafter.

  10. RussellHolmes on January 31, 2010 at 2:36 pm

    I can’t wait to read God of the Hive!

Leave a Comment