(Re)Writing God of the Hive

The first excerpt for The God of the Hive is here, to be followed by others on the 27th of January, 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 talking about the rewrite process.  I will take care to avoid major spoilers, although this post contains a minor one—if you wish to preserve the absolute purity of the eventual reading experience, you may wish to stop now and just stick to the excerpts themselves.


As you can see (you should get an enlarged version if you click on the image) the working title, which held from its original proposal (in the fall of 2008) until almost the last minute (September 2009) was The Green Man.  I’ve blogged about the title and the character of the Green Man several times, posts you can track down if you like by hitting that tab over on the sidebar.

However, The God of the Hive is not an inappropriate title, because the key character in the book is a sort of modern Green Man, a spirit of the woods, the most British of demigods.

Not that the book is without other gods, two of which we meet in the Preface—which was originally Chapter Four, page 19,  until I realized that the image of these two antagonists worked better as the foundation stone of the story rather than another event in the march of chapters.  And here lies the mild spoiler referred to above, for in the final version, I decided to keep their identities unnamed (although I think the experienced reader will guess—or rather, deduce!—the name of prisoner long before it is given, anyway.)

Then Chapter One begins, with a slight shift of wording that opens meaning.  And because my first drafts are basically an outline of plot written for my own eyes, this first draft amounts to a quick sketch, waiting for the final version to find all the color, detail, and balance the reader needs: Who are these people?  What are they doing?  Where are they?  When are we? and most important of all, Why should I care about them?

Between the version that first went onto my laptop and the one that ended up between hardcovers lay countless changes.  What was originally one five-page chapter broke into two chapters (of four and three pages, respectively) as the story that began with two figures crossing a barren hill at dawn took on intimations of a far larger world: Out there lay the machinations of Empire, and the threat of loss, and the sharper threat of pursuit.  The relationship between Russell and this burden she carries (adding just enough background information so a reader unfamiliar with The Language of Bees will not feel lost) is central to the entire novel, and needs to be established from the beginning.  We need drama, and humor; we need attention to the pacing of the sentences so the prose becomes both invisible and inevitable; we need to fully inhabit the head of the narrator, Russell, but with this book, we need also to be prepared to shift our point of view to encompass other characters.

And finally, the Green Man himself.  We will not meet Robert Goodman for many chapters yet, but when we do, his presence needs to mesh instantly with what has gone before, as if we have been waiting for him all along.

Next month, excerpt two: Inside the mind (and–gasp–heart) of Sherlock Holmes.


  1. Charlie Shene says:

    Hello Mrs. King.

    I am reading “the Language of Bees” and I have a question about the grammer on page 225. Please bare with me;I am an electrical engineer, and so naturally I am barely literate. The sentence I question starts “Between the dressing rooms were a ……” . Should this were be a “was”; is it singular or am I missing some grammatical nuance?

    Also I wanted you to know that I enjoy your stories;so much so that I purchase them at full retail and do not mind doing it. Thank you for writing them.

    Ps When I am done reading my books i donate the books to our local library for others to enjoy. Also recently our local college, Clarkson University, askthe public for used works of fiction to which I happily donated a couple bags of books. I hope those engineers enjoy them as I have.

  2. Laurie King says:

    Between the dressing rooms are two rooms, hence the plural verb.
    Glad to know you’re supporting libraries, I’m a great fan.

  3. What a pleasure to be sampling a bit of “The God of the Hive.” For me there is also nostalgia in seeing copyreading marks again. I note that, like me, you have participles in your first draft that need to be changed to stronger verbs in your final version.

  4. I am so excited about this new book… I have missed my friends.


  5. Just brilliant, that first page of chapter one. I am interested in seeing how you develop the relationship between Holmes’ granddaughter and Russell.

    I’ve always liked how you portray Mycroft and I’m looking forward to seeing more of him.

    However, back to the topic at hand, editing. I love seeing the steps of this process. I suspect it is similar to academic writing, except instead of trying to convey an argument, you are trying to convey a character and their concerns. Of course all the grammatical issues are tied within this. It is neat to see how the process is parallel. As always, I look forward to more in the future at your convenience. My best to you and yours.

  6. Thank you SO MUCH for letting us see the process between first draft and final version! It’s fascinating and educational to watch the evolution, and to analyze why the later choices are better than the earlier.

  7. RussellHolmes says:

    This is so awesome!! I cannot wait until April!!! I want to read it SO SO SO BAD right now thanks to the preveiw. Thanks Laurie!!

  8. RussellHolmes says:

    By the way, can you come to Colorado some time Laurie?

  9. It’s really interesting to see the drafts (and the insights) from such an awesome, talented writer. I just about had kittens when I saw there was an excerpt available from GOTH. I’m looking forward to this novel so much. Thank you for the peek into your writing process.

Speak Your Mind