Firstly, I wanted to thank /u/Will_Wight for writing the blogs on the new writing technique he undertook for Wintersteel. I found the process very fascinating and eased the wait anxiety between books. I agree with his conclusion that perhaps he was over-cutting.
I do not think that he came to the complete solution to the problem of Uncrowned.
The problem with Uncrowned was what was missing, not what was cut.
Uncrowned was only missing two scenes, but those two scenes were deeply unsatisfying blank spots.[Read full post for entire question]
First of all, let me say in all sincerity that I appreciate the level of thought and care that you've put both into evaluating these issues and into writing them up. You clearly put consideration into this, and it shows.
Second, I very much appreciate the constructive spirit in which this is posted. I absolutely take this for the constructive criticism that it is, and I respect that.
It is because of that respect, in fact--and because you tagged me directly, implying to me that you want my thoughts--that I will give you an honest response.
More honest a response than I perhaps usually give, though I always try to be as real with you guys as I can.
You're putting together a picture with more than half the puzzle pieces missing.
The lesson learned from Uncrowned should be to add one more step to the editing process.
I really don't mean any offense, I mean this as a very literal observation, but you don't know what steps are currently in my editing process.
I know, from your perspective, that it must seem self-evident. A.) There were scenes you felt were missing, therefore B.) the beta readers weren't looking for gaps, because if they had been, they would have made that note and C.) I would have written the scenes. A-B-C.
That is not at all how it works.
The beta readers are virtually never looking for scenes to cut. Hilariously enough, Wintersteel is the first time where we've had that as a beta reader step. They're only ever looking for what they feel is missing or broken.
The notes I get from beta readers overwhelmingly fall into one of three categories. Here they are, from most common to least:
1.) Things they felt were bad. Out of character, poorly phrased, confusing, whatever.
2.) Things they felt were missing or that they wanted to see that weren't there.
3.) Typos and minor sentence-level corrections.
Since I know you were primarily looking out for #2 on this list, I'll address that one specifically: that's the one where I could always add more. There's no end to it. I always, always, even with Wintersteel, cut that off early.
We have a couple of weeks after the beta reading phase, during which I'll add whatever scenes I can write in that time. But when I run out of time, that's it. That's the number of scenes you get.
"But Will, you sterling stallion, why the arbitrary cutoff?" There has to be an arbitrary cutoff. I could keep going on that step for years, but each addition of a scene means more material to read through, and there's no outside force giving me a firm deadline so it has to be arbitrary to some degree.
I say all this just to illustrate that there's a lot going on under the surface that isn't necessarily evident to the post-mortem analysis of a story.
Most times, when people are unhappy with an ending, it's because the author did not put in an emotional climax.
I don't want to put words in your mouth (or keys under your fingers), but I suspect you're talking about the emotional resolution.
The climax of a story is the point of greatest conflict, and in Uncrowned in particular (this isn't true for all my stories, but it is for this one) the emotional climax and plot climax are the same moment.
The point of greatest emotional conflict with the highest stakes is between Lindon and Yerin as they clash in the tournament. The resolution is when the fallout of that climax is resolved and we get to see how things turned out for those involved, which (in terms of the emotional arc) occurs at the beginning of Wintersteel.
So there very much was a climax in Uncrowned. You might hate it with a burning passion, but structurally it is there.
I do agree, however, with your ultimate point that Wintersteel felt a lot more fleshed-out than Uncrowned, and I'm hoping to learn from that with Bloodline.
It's harder than it seems, though. There's a lot to juggle in Bloodline. But I'm doing my best!