Alpha Readers

It took me a couple of months of spinning my wheels and not really making any progress, but I have finally broken free from my writers block and pushed myself to a good place.  I have about 25K words down on the page, and a pretty solid outline (minus a few specific-specifics) up to the ~75% mark in my story, then again from 90% until the end.

Now that the hair-pulling and self-pitying is safely behind me, I can spot a couple patterns in the debris field when I look over my shoulder. As the dozens of spiders / bots following this blog know, I’m in the early writing stage of my second-ever novel. This means I am still basically new to the whole process, and every slight variation I attempt becomes my first ever experiment with that variation. Some of these experiments work to my benefit, others to my detriment, but until I blunder ahead I don’t know the one from the other.

My first story came into being from within a bubble.

I was well past the 80% mark (with a clear outline of the finish) before I broke that isolation and shared a single word with alpha readers over on FWO. This wasn’t by grand design… I don’t know any writers in my personal life, and my wife does’t “get” fantasy, so that is just how it happened. In the course of workshopping that manuscript, I developed a great group of peers, and my writing capabilities certainly improved. I got all the way to the end of the manuscript with one particular partner, the mid point with another, and a couple others worked with me through the first third of the novel. By the time I got that much input, I’d learned so much that I was no longer excited by the story. It was a fun first attempt with some elements done well, many lacking, but it didn’t have the fundamentals woven in to make it a really great story. Fine, no big deal. On to book number 2!

Eager to keep a good thing going, I wasted no time connecting with some old faces, and some new, over at FWO, and I began posting my new words almost as soon as they hit my Scrivener document. I sprinted ahead, full of momentum, and the feedback started rolling in.

Then two bad things happened at the same time.

First, I discovered that the “gardener” method of writing wasn’t really for me… I need an outline. So I sat down and started outlining. It wasn’t hard — I love planning out the story and world-building the features, then finding clever ways for things to intersect. In any case, it is another crucial part of storytelling I need to keep practicing to get good.

This change of gears slowed my momentum, and as I was etching out character arcs, feedback continued to roll in. I was a couple chapters ahead of my alpha readers, so I continued to post while I worked in the background. Then the second bad thing happened.

Already weak on momentum, I was hit with the realization that my story was not manifesting the way I wanted it to. I had things planned later in the book, but the seeds weren’t planting, the character quirks weren’t coming through, too many things weren’t working for too many people! WHAT TO DO!?

Well I did what any semi-panicked novice writer would, and immediately began rewriting what I already had, trying to “fix” things so that the story was setting up the grand impact I wanted it to have.  I couldn’t allow my alpha readers go read through the whole thing and be left scratching their heads and telling me, in the end, the story didn’t really have any punch to it!  Could I?

This began a very negative feedback loop, the escape from which took over two months.

Now that I am out, I’ve learned three very important things about myself.

Momentum is essential. I’ve heard this said by other authors as well, particularly Brandon Sanderson, so I had a hunch the same might be true for me. Well it is. Each time I had to second guess where I was going, or change gears for something technical/secondary, it became harder and harder to keep going forward.

Workshopping too early is bad. I made a concerted effort to file away my feedback into a folder, expecting to dive into it in earnest only when I finished the first draft. I read everything as it came in, of course, so I could make notes of things I should adjust on the fly. Something about a character wasn’t working? I can pivot as I went. A motivation didn’t come through? I better find a way to mention it again.

This turned out to be poison, and I just don’t have the personality to ignore what people are saying and what they think. I just have to start fixing things once I know there is an issue… which stops my forward movement, but leads me to bad solutions (e.g., why add another scene about motivation when I could just fix it in the first scene later during my revision?).

My writing is still novice, but that’s okay. This is a big one for me, and the one that will take the most self control to internalize. When I re-read my own writing, before sharing it with others, I generally hate it. I might like how it flows or what happens, but the prose itself… the descriptions, the sometimes clunky or confusing way I move around… it just irks me!  I CAN DO BETTER!

… well maybe I can, but the key is not to worry about doing it now. This ties back into #2, because I have a deep issue with sharing something that I am not proud of, which means before I can post anything for review I just have to give it a once- or twice- or three-time over before I can let it out into the wild. That energy drains directly away from my momentum, and it is poorly spent. I might bang out 10K words in a week, but 9K of them were rewrites to old material just so I could post it! And furthermore, when I still don’t land on prose that I really love, it just gets me down.

So back to the bubble I must go, at least for now.

This really upsets me. I enjoy the community I have at FWO, and I don’t want to lose connections with some of the people that I’ve been working with, but I have no choice. I need to be well ahead of the material I am posting so that I can be insulated from the feedback.  If I am just a chapter ahead (or less, as it was sometimes) the feedback has too direct a channel to influence my vector, to break my stride, or to otherwise get in my head. My plan now is to get to 60K words, and THEN start posting back on FWO.  I’ll do my best in the meantime to continue providing feedback to others, with the hope they will avail themselves to me when I am ready to try this again.

Well, with that — onward!

Vegas

I am back from Las Vegas. The trip was great, although expensive, and gave me some time to catch up on reading and even do a little writing (about 10K words).

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As always, settling back into the real world can be jarring, but such is the nature of vacations.

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Not much else to say than that… back to reality! And hopefully I’ll be a little more productive with my writing in the upcoming week.

Creativity Fail

Somehow, somewhere, I picked up a writer’s block bug, and I just can’t seem to shake it. As the days became weeks, and now over a month, it has become clear that it won’t pass on its own. Breaking out of this rut will require some deliberation and work.

This hiccup serves as a signpost for me, with two distinct markers mounted upon it.  First, it means I have reached the end of the honeymoon stage in the Lunhina Trilogy. This is not to say the new setting and characters do not still excite me — they do — but it means the easy part is over.  I could write a thousand cool starts to stories.  The start is all about layering intrigue and finding different ways to introduce people.  The questions drive the introduction.  When you exit the “start” of the story then suddenly the plot lines need to go somewhere, and need to follow an interesting path along the way.  I can’t just wing this or throw it off the cuff, and thus the end of the honeymoon.

This also explains the second marker I see clearly before me.  I don’t like free writing, or “gardening” as GRRM calls it.  I was trying it in this book for two reasons: first, it was a reaction to my first story Sapphire Spawn, which had been outlined so tightly, all my characters suffocated before I pulled them through it.  Second, new writers are always encouraged to try different things until they know what really works for them. So I tried it.

It sucks.

That might be little harsh, but it doesn’t mesh with my personality, or my need for momentum. If I don’t know where to go next, I come to a hard stop between each chapter, and that doesn’t work for my style.

I’m in the process of pulling out what hair follicles remain to me as I try to lay down an outline that can carry me towards the endings I have planned.  This is at least productive.  Less productive has been an increase in my own crits with my informal writing groups, and other expenditures of my free time that could otherwise have gone to my story.  No more.  I’m putting myself into a mandatory time-out from all that until I get this sorted.  I hope to pull free in the next few nights and be on my way.

Walking in the dark

I’m continuing to make progress on the Lunhina Trilogy, discovering the plot as I advance. While I am enjoying the process, I find it a lot harder to break into a new chapter. Without a clear plan forward, my confidence holds me back as I second guess the best place to start, the best info to drop, and the best place to end.

I think the reason for this is I know I could write the same chapter a dozen different ways… so how do I pick out the best one? I don’t want to keep rewriting the same chapters with different directions just to see, so I am relying on intuition. I suppose like anything else, this is something that will strengthen as I go. I’ll lean on feedback from my writers group to help me focus.

The other interesting thing I am finding is when I do finally lay out the plan for a chapter, it ends up becoming two or three when written. It seems that I overestimate how much I can get done in just a couple thousand words.  I am curious to see how all this pans out as it goes out for feedback, as it could be a sign I am laying words with a heavy hand, or it might just mean the organic nature of the character’s movement requires more time to complete.

Final POV locked in

Status Report: Lunhina (d1) 14,075 words.

I finished writing the first scene with my fourth POV: Svaran. I am reasonably happy with all four voices, although a little concerned the “narrator” leaks through.  Really, I should change my style of description and even my vocabulary from POV to POV, to make them fully unique.  I am not sure I can pull that off, though. I’ll wait and see what alpha feedback I get, then decide if that is necessary.

I had fun with Svaran. I gave myself a challenge, one that originally stems from Brandon Sanderson’s online lectures, and it was this: write the scene with the character and don’t EVER mention (in inner monologue or in exposition) what the character is doing. See if you can write it so that the reader figures it out on their own.  This simple-sounding exercise was quite fun and really changed the way I approached the chapter.  In the past, I would write a scene in order to communicate a specific plot step to the reader. That works, but readers enjoy figuring things out, it is what humans do in life and in social situations, and we like it.  So with this exercise, I wrote the scene without any regard for the reader, instead I just planted myself in the character’s head, and watched her do her thing.  It was surprisingly natural.

I think I got it down and I am excited to share it with my informal writing group to see how early on they can tell me what Svaran’s “deal” is.  Or if they get to the end, and can’t, well then I dropped the ball.

Anyway, it is one of a few POV/voice exercises I am working on to try and get my character voices stronger and more story-driving.

Well, that was unexpected!

Lunhina: 10.8% Draft 1

I had my first genuine “wow, I didn’t expect that” moment while writing today.  It was quite extraordinary… something I have read in other authors, but did not quite believe.  How can a character really tell you, the author, what is going to happen?

Well, turns out they can. Without an outline, you really become the character as you write, and you live with them in the moment, documenting what occurs. I was doing this in a Kinius scene, and I arrived near the end of the scene where he is injured on a boat, understaffed, and running for home.

I knew I couldn’t end the scene there… something more needed to happen, something interesting or character building at least. It seemed to me the enemy needed to find them before I could close the chapter.

BUT, I don’t want them dead! I need these characters still. How can a Galley of a hundred men catch a longboat of five, and the five come out alive (more or less)?

I stared at the page for a while on that one, and then stalled a bit by writing Kinius as he squirms and thinks.  And then— BOOM. Idea. It came from his mind as I was playing it out, not my authorial-outlining mind.  I went with it, cleaned it a bit, and I like it!  This was not in my outline at all, but it worked great.

Discovering Discovery Writing

Lunhina: 9.8% Draft 1

For the Lunhina Trilogy, I am dipping my feet into discovery writing for the first time. It is refreshing and exhilarating and makes me feel like a blind man with no idea which way is up.

To be fair, this is not a total discovery project. Every character has a start and a finish point in my outline, as well as one or two major scenes along the way. I also have a general start and end for the book, and for the next two books.  So in that sense, this is still outlined, but compared to what I did for Spawn, it is a whole different ballgame.

Right now, I have no idea what to do in each chapter, where it has to go, or how it has to get where it is going.  All I know is “eventually” I need to reach certain things, but that is really it! I finally understand what writers mean when they say that characters show them things as they write. I get it. You just write what makes sense while you are in the character’s head, throw in a twist, and roll with it.  None of it was choreographed, none of it was outlined. It is real!  But it is also meandering and random sometimes. This will take some work to get right.

In any case, I am so far enjoying the process. I suspect I will hammer in a few more details on my outline as I work into the characters, to try and find a good balance between discovery and architecting, and we’ll see how it goes!

RIP Spawn

Well, it is official.  After many weeks of considering the pros and cons, and breaking my way into my next project, I have finally decided the fate of Spawn.

I always knew going into this project that it would be primarily a learning experience, and maybe also something publishable.  I am busy revising the last 8 chapters from draft 1 to draft 2.5, and I have finally come to accept that I am fully comfortable with Spawn becoming a testament to my maiden voyage into writing, and never giving it to the light of day.  It is hard to explain how much the process taught me, but the truth is it is only one of many stories I want to tell, and not even a particularly well organized one.

I will continue my revisions to version 2.5 through the ending, and I will continue workshopping until chapter 32, then I am putting it on the shelf as a commemoration of the work that got me started.  Maybe, in a few months, I’ll come back and incorporate all the beta feedback, but most likely I’ll just let it die quietly, and steal any bits I liked for other works.

The primary factor in the decision has been my explosive excitement around the new project, the Lunhina Trilogy. Worldbuilding, character development, and outlining for this project went from 0% to 100% in a matter of days, and I have already planted the first 5700 bricks towards the project. I have no doubt alpha readers will bring me off cloud 9, but if I do say so myself, this is going fantastically compared to Spawn. It feels more alive, the characters feel more real, and the story is more organic.  I am not fully surprised by the different, considering how much I learned in the first round, but I am surprised by the momentum.  In a matter of days, I fell fully behind Lunhina and lost almost all interest in Spawn.  Some of that is just excitement at a new project, but it is deeper than that.  Spawn has served its purpose, and done so admirably, paving the way for a much better project.

Once I get all chapters to d2.5 and workshopped to 32 (of 41), I’m turning it in, and calling it a day.  Lunhina is a different kind of story. This one I would like to sell and publish… that is the point. Last time that would have been an added benefit, but the point was to learn. The stakes are higher now, and I’m aiming for the outfield.

Lunhina Tranist
Phase:Writing
Due:5 hours ago
5.7%

My Worse Rookie Mistakes

d3/111,018, 33/41

I am at an interesting point in my writing development, and one that merits some documentation.  I’ve mentioned before how my feelings about Spawn wax and wane, giving me days where I feel like I have a good story that just needs the right coaxing, and days I feel like I have a big pile of learning experiences that nobody else should ever have to read.

My new project

Today is one of the latter days.  I’ve finished revising draft 3 [a.k.a. 2.5] through chapter 33, which means I just have 8 chapters left.  I’ve received feedback from my writing group as far as chapter 26, and my pile of “to-do” changes for the final draft (d4) is quite large.  But that is not what is most discouraging.

A few weeks ago I was feeling a little blocked, and I started browsing my “cool ideas” document to get a sense of what my next project might be.  What is on the horizon for me, as I continue to explore this potential career as a writer?  A couple jumped out at once that I liked at the time, and that still resonate well. In the weeks since then, the ideas have started to codify into the beginnings of a new story, a new world, and some really engaging plots.  I am missing one or two sparks, I think, before I can really start looking at the different arcs and building an outline.

The rookie mistakes that might kill Spawn

The amount of excitement around my new project is quite intoxicating.  Not just because I enjoy the earlier stages more than the revision stages, but because I just have a better sense of how to build a story now, my confidence is much higher that I can do it well.  This is all in contrast to Spawn.

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Spawn continues to be anchored by a number of really rudimentary and n00b problems.  I’ll write them out.

1. Role-casted Characters

I didn’t know my characters well enough before I set out on this project.  I have a document outlining their personality quirks and their attitudes, and yet I rarely follow it.  Why?  Because I can’t.  The characters were forced into roles that I needed for the plot, and the plot was strung together in advance without appealing to the characters.  I just expected them to play along, but they aren’t.  They will be much less interesting if I force them to, which leaves me with two bad options: a) force them into their planned role anyway, and they will be non-believable and single dimensional, or b) give them the life they deserve, but the plot breaks apart and suffers.

Could this be fixed in revision? Yeah, probably.  But I do have to ask myself if it is worth that much effort to save.  In my new project, I am being very careful to plot things out differently.  I am not designing everything around the specific sequence of events I want to tell, instead I am just planning out some major conflicts, and getting to know some characters.  I will let the two develop independently to an extent, and then create my scenes based on the characters themselves.

2. Worldbuilders Disease

I’ve also mentioned before how this novel is the great-grandchild of a big bunch or worldbuilding I did some six years ago with the intention of writing a screenplay and then a video game.  The key is, I had this extremely detailed world with specific properties, and then I build a plot that maneuvered around many of those specifics, to the point it can’t really be divorced from them.  I am again left with two bad options: a) Force-feed the readers with very heavy info chapters that fill in all these in-world specifics that explain the nuance difference between X and Y and explain Z, or b) Leave out these details and the plot seems to be full of holes and inconsistencies.  Not good.

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Can this be fixed?  Again, yes I think so.  I would err towards option b, and then do some foreshadowing and dialogue to patch things up… but again, it feels like I am neutering the original creation past recognition.  That isn’t a bad thing in and of itself if the original creation was deeply buried gold that just needed sunlight to glint to its full potential… but that is not what this is.

In my new project, I am planning enough to be interesting, but hinging the plot on as few as possible.  The setting will impact the story because the characters live in that world — it is not necessary to tie each element of the world into the plot in order to showcase it.

3. Change for Change’s sake

All stories revolve around conflict and changes, and a story is the road characters take across those conflicts to reach those changes.  In my new story, I am beginning to lay out the plot around interesting conflicts.  For one character, I have a really great conflict that will hit at about the 90% mark of the story, and another at about the 20% mark.  I have one for the overall plot as well.  I need a bunch more, but the idea is, I am approaching the new story with the lens of “what conflicts do I want to see, and what events will lead up to those conflicts?”  My approach in Spawn was rather different.  I didn’t have any ending points established at all, and I only had a few conflict scenes.  I filled in the rest just to move things along, sometimes nearly randomly.

They are going from Silvius Center to Nerthia… I need something to happen… how about… Onadak Outpost?  That is how that scene got written.  I had no conflicts in mind, no character development in mind, I just needed something to happen.  I went back and shoehorned in some things, based on where I knew the characters were before and where they would be, but it was awkward and didn’t serve the purpose.

If I need Evaya to confront her past, I should set a scene that lets her do that.  Not try to squeeze it into dialogue while a scene that doesn’t matter at all is unfolding.

4. Poor Descriptions

This one might sound odd… surely descriptions and style can be changed in revision?  Well yes, sure, but this issue is a little deeper.  First of all, I wrote all of this without any idea about filtering or show vs tell, or any of that.  In my particular case, fixing the descriptions means a rewrite of 110K words.  But beyond that, issues from bullet 1, 2, and 3 are bleeding into the page, and in order to wrap a bandage around it, my prose is somewhat forced into the complex.  For example, my characters do not have well developed POV voices… which means I have to work extra hard to get things across that could be much easier.  My world has so many minor nuances that are plot-important, I have to dwell on them in inner monologue, or describe them as being noticed when they seem irrelevant.  This all weighs down the prose.  And in bullet 3, the sometimes artificial progress of my characters needs to be handled in narration because I did not create a scene to facilitate it, and that means more awkward thoughts or strangely fixated descriptions to try and pull things in a certain way for the character.  It all just feels like it has so much inertia.

So, what do I do?

Good question.  I don’t have the answer yet.  There are several main factors at play here.  First, I really am afraid that if I bail on Spawn now that the going is tough, it will set a precedent that stops me whenever a book isn’t going right.  When I’m thinking like that, I want to push through it just for the exercise.  Second, this has been well over a thousand hours of my life the last year, and there are parts of it that are very good and of which I am very proud. I would like to have more to show for it than just a learning exercise (which it certainly was on many levels no matter what).  Third, there are several other parts of this process (the publishing side) that I will not get to experiment with until I have something finished.  My new story is a year out at least, do I want to wait that long to have anything?

My overall plan at this point is, finish the draft-3 revisions, complete workshopping with my writers group through the ending, and then put the thing aside for a while.  I’ll get a first draft banged out on the new project in the meantime, then revisit Spawn with real distance and more experience, and decide where to go.

Working on Showing vs Telling

d3/111,465 words. 26/41 chapters revised to d2.5

I’ve spent some time studying the age-old show vs. tell problem, specifically through this book recommended to me by a fellow FWO’er.

I rewrote my first chapter making a dedicated effort to purge all cases of non-immediate inner monologues, as well as every case of telling an emotion or reaction, when I could just show it. The result feels a little flowery, to be honest, but it also feels much cleaner and easier to read.  I think a big part of the writing game that I have to get my head around, is that reading a book is not about being told a story.  Not really.  It is about having circumstances described to you, and allowing your own mind to create the story.  I can’t fixate on spoon-feeding the exact inner thoughts my MC is having in a particular situation, instead I just need to show what he sees, and if my characterization has been consistent, the reader will be able to get the same experience, but in a more enjoyable way.

This will be one of the major components of my draft 4 pass, and I am confident it will improve my writing dramatically.  On the negative side, it slows my word-count from nearly 1000 words per hour to about 100.  They may be better words, but that is still tough to swallow.

The changes are not always obvious.  Consider this line from D2.4:

D2.4  

He shuffled slightly to keep the swelling blood from touching his boots, and stared at the empty face before him.

His vision suddenly flecked with hot tears as guilt prickled across his face. He got back to his feet, blinking away the unwanted emotions. What good would they do him?

He flicked his blade, then removed a pink handkerchief from the fold of his blue trench coat and ran it along the cold metal, clearing the bits of matter that still clung to it. As he did, he urged his mind to go blank and the sting of shame softened. He was well practiced in bathing himself in a mental darkness, a meditative numbness, voided of self reflection and emotion. It was the only way to stay sane after all. Otherwise, utter despondence would surely claim him, as he was forced to commit all flavors of malevolence by his Pledge Binding.

In cases like this, the showing and telling are so intertwined, the whole thing needs to be rewritten.  I did so, emphasizing descriptions of actions and sights and sounds, rather than statements of what he was thinking or feeling. Here is the same section in D2.5:

D2.5

He shuffled slightly to keep the welling blood from touching his boots.

Vincent’s final expression was carved by terror, his mouth wide in a scream that had never touched the air. Nyklas’s stomach clenched unexpectedly, and looked away, but the man’s wide beseeching eyes continued to sting him. Guilt? Hells, where was that coming from?

He stood and flicked his blade, then removed a stained handkerchief from the fold of his trenchcoat and wiped the cold metal. There was nothing I could’ve done to stop this. I didn’t mark him to die. That was quite true, yet his stomach still twisted and an unease spread through his chest.

This whole situation was bullshit, from the depravity of his master to the Binding that enslaved him. Now he was killing random merchants in the slums of town… why, exactly? Did Golithias need nothing more than a perceived slight to toss his assassin into action?

The difference is, in my submission, fairly striking… but again, it required a full rewrite.  It is not a matter of deleting the word “sad” and replacing it with descriptions of sadness.  In many cases, whole sections need to be reworked to revolve around description and immediate experiences, rather than commentary.

Then there are times when I am telling, and I really don’t have the option of showing.  In those cases, I am tending to just remove the block.  I won’t follow this strictly throughout the book, but in chapter 1 if it requires telling, it can probably wait.

D2.4

Beyond the sea of rooftops nearly lost in darkness, the huge structure of the ship loomed. The facade of the aged spacecraft, two miles wide and half a thousand feet high, was like some kind of metallic god that watched over the entire city through a grey washed eye.

He spared the ship only a passing glance. Far from inspiring awe, the sight only summoned disgust. The ship was nothing more than a fortress. Half destroyed from the crash that seeded this planet, it stood only as a monument of segregation between the civilians and the sinister characters that played plutocracy over them. Such as his master.

The solution here was just to leave a lot of details out so I could show the things I needed to, use analogies to fill in the emotional connotations, and call it a day.

D2.5

Beyond the sea of rooftops the ship loomed tall, like the face of a fallen metallic god. The grey-washed surface caught the light with the sinister matte of an opaque and blind eye. Restraining a scowl, he looked away…

The last thing I addressed is not strictly related to showing and telling, but I group it together anyway: micro pacing. During intense scenes, it is important to control your prose by making sentences more concrete and shorter.  No similes or metaphors, just short, quick, action.  I looked at this during this pass because I can easily show something small and let the reader interpret the rest, without breaking out of the moment.  If I stop to tell the same thing, the action comes to a crawl. It seems counter-intuitive, and may not apply globally, but at least in the examples in this chapter, the showing felt natural and quick, whereas telling felt intellectual and contemplative, and thus slow. The escape scene suffers from telling instead of showing, of doing so during high-tension moments, and of telling in an info-dumpy sort of way:

D2.4

He turned and ran across the bedroom, but at the top of the stairs he stopped. There was a bang from below as the front door was kicked open. Angry voices sounded from within the house.

He grimaced, and looked around. The colors around him intensified as his heightened senses came alive. Power flooded from that core of energy that kept him alive — his Adonis Heart — making his muscles quiver. The sounds on the air were suddenly more vivid, and time seemed to stretch as he scanned his surroundings for options. At least a dozen men were downstairs. As a Spawn, he could probably fight his way through all of them, but that was beside the point. He didn’t want to kill more than he had to. He needed a plan, fast. There was a second bedroom on the back side of the house. He ran across the landing and kicked open the door, registering two windows within. The first overlooked the main street where a crowd was quickly becoming a mob, but the back window faced a narrow alley between this house and the masonry shop next door. In moments he was out the window, landing roughly on the tile roof across the alley. It was an inhumanly long jump, and he was sure they could not follow. Ignoring the stinging in his shins, he scanned his surroundings. Torch lights played off the building towards the main street, but the alley led to a small street behind the shop, which was empty. He rolled off the roof and landed in the narrow road backing the house.

Here is what I came up with for D2.5:

D2.5

He turned and ran across the bedroom, but at the top of the stairs he stopped. There was a bang from below as the front door was kicked open. Angry voices sounded from within the house. He grimaced, and looked around. The colors of the dark hallway intensified as his heightened senses came alive. His muscles quivered with ready strength. At least a dozen men were downstairs. As a Spawn, he could probably cut his way through all of them if it came to it. His master might not care either way, but he cared. He ran to the second bedroom at the back side of the house as heavy footsteps banged up the stairs. There were two windows. He opened the window above the narrow alley where he’d started. As voices and boots pounded into the bedroom, he gave himself to the wind, and landed roughly on the tile roof across the way. Shouts and whistling echoed from the front street. Shins stinging, he rolled off the roof landing on the hard stones of the alley a dozen feet below. Colors popped as his Spawn strength flared, dispelling the pain in his ankles and knees. He threw himself into a sprint down the alley towards the back street.

Anyway, this will all get one final pass, but I do think this revision brings it within 1 pass of being “done.”