After completing my first-round edit, I’ve finally gotten Below out to the first beta readers.
As it stands right now, I’m pretty happy with how this came out as a full book. I’ve left the door open for sequels, should I want to go that route, as the world this is set in has room for them.
A lot of interesting things came about from this transition, as tends to be common with novella-to-novel rewrites. When I first wrote the villain Gareth St. James, he did something cartoonishly stupid that always sat poorly with me. Having had a chance to fix that, I discovered an additional character and a vastly changed dynamic. In the original story, the fact that the villain’s henchmen and the thieves who are the protagonists are all on a first-name basis made their interactions interesting, but in the novel there’s actually a deep friendship between two of the characters that crosses this divide.
The nature of magic and enchantment has changed somewhat in the book as well. The original was very, very Roguelike in its approach. The novel places more importance on spellbinding—the act of enchanting an item with a spell—than on readily available magic like that found in one-shot scrolls. The party does not travel with a mage. Bindings are quite interesting in that they tend to wear out with use, and some are easier to replenish than others. Enchantment is used as more of a tool here.
In scale, everything feels much bigger. The village of Paddystock, one of the few named settlements in the novella, is merely one among many now. Instead of vaguely describing all sorts of places the party passes, numerous locations are described in greater depth. There’s the tall city of Lowcastle, whose buildings hold up the ceiling, the cavernous expanse of Wootenghast, and the marketplace of Candlestead, among many others. For all their abandonment, the ruins are also a very active place, where creatures migrate and “manthings” clash in border disputes. The cast-off broken possessions of former expeditions can be found there, and sometimes their corpses too.
There’s not really a lot else to say without spoilers, but I’m psyched. It’s always exciting when a book first breaks out to the point where someone gets a chance to read it other than yourself.