Possible reworking of Island of Fog

Posted on August 18, 2014 (Subscribe to Blog)

While in the throes of publishing Book 9 in the Fog series in two days from now, I've been thinking about doing a bit of fiddling work to Book 1, Island of Fog, in an effort to make it a little faster-paced at the start.

I received a 2-star Amazon review the other day that said, "I just could not get into this book at all, I tried too but it was just so not what I was expecting it to be. It seemed long and drawn out." Even a true fan, while plugging the series, said, "It starts off a little slow but just to get you introduced to the characters, at which point it's full speed ahead for the next 8 books."

When I asked Brian Clopper, a 5th-grade-teacher who reads the book to his class every year, he said: "I will say it takes a long time to get to the transformations. I know my students were much more interested in getting to them than the build up. The smart clothes scene could be trimmed down too and maybe amp up the manticore creepiness and fight."

I feel a challenge coming on! I've been hearing comments like this for years, and while most fans don't mention that Book 1 was slow to start with, that doesn't mean to say it wasn't. It just means they didn't mind as much, that they were invested in the story and plowed through, or actually liked the slow build. But I wonder how many other readers have quietly given up on it?

The more Fog books I publish, the leaner my writing becomes, yet the books remain the same length – which in theory means the stories are generally faster-paced with more story packed in. I'm pretty sure they jump into the action earlier, too. When I look back at the first two books in particular, I see lots of places I could trim down.

At the request of my agent a while back, I developed a screenplay for Island of Fog. I was surprised at how much faster the action seemed just because I combined a few days at the beginning – the same events, just happening much quicker, cutting out the fat in the process.

So, for all those Fog readers who like the series but secretly think parts of the first book dragged, now's your chance to speak up! I'm asking you to email me or post here to tell me what you'd like to see tightened or trimmed or cut from a revamped version. If the book ends up ten or twenty thousand words shorter, that's okay – the book shouldn't be longer than it needs to be to tell the story.

Don't stop at Island of Fog, either. I personally think Labyrinth of Fire starts off slow. It takes six chapters for Hal to set off on his mission. I could say that the kids had to take time to settle into their new home, but somehow that argument doesn't work for me anymore. I'm upping my game. :-)

My long-term plan is to tighten the first book in particular so that, when readers download it free, they end up being sucked in earlier instead of getting bored. Fans might tell them, "Hang in there, and you'll enjoy it!" But I don't want new readers to just "hang in there." I want them to feel they can't put it down, and I believe the only way to do that is to tighten up the story and cut out the fat.

So, with all that in mind, please help me out in as much detail as you like. Thank you! :-)

Comment by BRIAN B on Monday, August 18, 2014...

Ha... I knew this was going to happen. Personally, I like the slow start, the slowly rising tension. However, I do get it. Kids nowadays have no patience ;-)

Comment by HAKEEM on Monday, August 18, 2014...

I am outraged that any who reads your books finds anything wrong with them. The first book is my favourite. And the light house was my favourite scene. I say there is no need to change anything. If you want to get people involved in your books I suggest writing some fast paced short stories. Stories you wouldn't have to read the main plot for but get you interested in the series and maybe make one or two of them free.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Monday, August 18, 2014...

Actually, Hakeem, that's EXACTLY what I intend! :-)

And Brian, I suspect you're right.

Comment by AURORA on Monday, August 18, 2014...

I am going in to 8th grade this year and I love the slow beginning. The tension slowly builds up dyingly wanting to know what's going to happen next. Don't change a thing about your books because others loooove it already so think about all us before you think about the non patient people. ♡ Also I'm excited for the 9th book to come out on my birthday assuming it is coming on on the 20th of what I read. Thank you for writing these glorious books.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Monday, August 18, 2014...

Aurora, that's a lovely thing to say! Thank you! And you're right about thinking of all those who already like the book before I change it for all those who are too impatient. By the way, I just hit the "publish" button on Amazon for Book 9, so it's a case of waiting now. Should be available within 24 hours or so, slightly early.

Comment by EMILY on Monday, August 18, 2014...

^^^Ahhhhhhhhgggggggg!!! I'm so excited!!!!!

Comment by NICOLA on Sunday, September 21, 2014...

Hi Keith, I was one of your Beta readers for Quincy's Curse and must confess I never finished Island of Fog Book 1 - although I was quite enjoying it - I think it was a little slow to start - so therefore never tried any later books in the series. I'm now immersed in Sleep Writer and absolutely love the way you leap straight into the action. I agree that your writing has become leaner and yet is as imaginative and unpredictable as ever! I was reading your book before bed last night and it had my heart thumping! Had to do some meditation to calm down again ;-) However it sounds like your fans like IoF Book 1 just as it is; so maybe you should put your creative energy into writing new material rather than revising old - it's a bit of a trap for us writers, to try and fix old 'mistakes'. I like the idea of writing some free short stories that hook readers into the series. Must congratulate you again on Sleep Writer - it's just fabulous! Will write you a glowing review when I'm done. Warmly, Nicola le B

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Monday, September 22, 2014...

Thanks Nicola! You see, that's what I'm afraid of — those who find Island of Fog a little slow to start and never finish it, thus missing out on all the goodness that follows. :-) To be honest, I think Labyrinth of Fire and Mountain of Fire probably start out a little slow too, but I believe my books have gotten tighter over time, and certainly Books 4-9 jump straight into the action from the first chapter. I challenge you to find fault with Book 8, which starts with intruders to Hal's home in the very first paragraph!

Maybe one day you'll give Island of Fog another chance. Hopefully then you'll be hooked. But it's true that Sleep Writer, being half the length, packs a lot more into fewer pages. I feel that it's the next step for me, the culmination of nine Fog books' worth of practice!

Thank you so much for your comments about Sleep Writer.

Comment by IZZY on Saturday, May 6, 2017...

I love the books and the slow start I think that it actually keeps you reading to find out what is going to happen: )

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