Monday 27th June 2017
I was having a bit of a panic this morning. I woke to be no clearer about my quandary from yesterday. My head was telling me to simplify relationships to make it easier for the reader, and yet my gut was telling me that the depth was in those characters and their imperfections.
I was so confused about it that I ended up sending a message to my beta reader. As is often the case, talking with someone can help make it clearer and I soon realised something very important.
I have a mantra when to comes to writing, and it’s that the author is slave to the story. That means the story comes first. Any changes, deletions or additions aren’t made to make the author look good or help their commercial chances. They are made because they are right for the story.
And that was where I was going wrong.
You see, that mantra is real easy when nothing is at stake. Sure, you are hungry for success and the temptation is always there to write something that will sell. There’s a lot of seemingly conflicting information out there. I’ve talked about it previously.
And I’m sure if you are sat there, trying to get an agent or a book deal, it doesn’t feel easy. What look like shortcuts are mighty tempting, and it still takes an ample amount of self-belief mixed with extreme focus to ensure that you tell the story that is wanting to be told.
But it does get harder, and that’s what I’m finding out. Before, if I made a bad decision, I might be left with a book I can’t sell, that doesn’t fit the market or is too niche. That’s very frustrating, especially given how long a book takes to write and edit.
But compare that to the situation where you are fortunate to have an agent, or have worked on a novel for 2 years to try and make it so it’s as good as any book being published. Taking risks suddenly becomes so much more difficult. Not only do you run the risk of being left with a book you can’t sell but also the feeling that you might have blown your shot at the big time.
Now, I’m not even going to pretend that most people would hack off limbs to be in my situation. I might have worked hard to get here but I realise I’m in a very privileged position. But I’m learning that it doesn’t get easier… the stakes just get much larger.
And so it was a bit of a surprise when I realised that my issue with the relationships wasn’t because I was unwilling to take risks, it was because I was scared I might somehow throw away everything I’ve gained.
I needed to remind myself of my mantra, that story is king and trumps all. As my beta reader pointed out to me, this wasn’t a case of me just rejecting the changes. I had considered them and had a good reason why I felt they should stay messy.
Once I looked at it that way, it suddenly became a lot clearer. Yes, I can certainly be a bit more subtle in places, but the messy relationships stay. If you come here in the future and think they sucked… well tough, you’re too late as the decision has been made.
I made some good progress on the manuscript this evening. There have been a few difficult bits tonight and I’m getting close to the bit where I have to consolidate chapters and move things around. That’s a bit scary but I think I’m getting there.
I’ve just got to the start of a chapter called Allies (to help future people who’ve read the book and come back to this). The start of that chapter has been moved to before the ball and whilst I’m crapping myself over the continuity it does mean that there’s no longer a nice segway from the previous chapter.
I can also cut a scene from the chapter so it’s going to get decimated. I just need to find a good way to lead into it and cover a few plot points from the scene I’m taking out. Hence I thought I’d take a break and write today’s edition of The Climb.
The good news is that I’m now about half way through the line edits. At some point I’ll run out of note and be running blind. I want to believe this is some exercise in learning to edit to this level on my own, but I suspect it’s just that my agent is busy and I should have a good idea of what needs doing by now.
I still feel I have a mountain of work and I’m out a lot of this weekend so won’t make such good progress but I feel I’ve got a handle on the work and am still moving forward.
Once I consolidate the chapters, I think I might step away from detached mode and go back to actually reading the book to find any continuity errors caused by all the changes as well as then editing the last half of the novel.
I’m still enjoying it despite all the hard work. I find myself wanting to jump back into it all the time. And I’ve been using reading old G I Joe comics as my procrastination activity. I work until I get to a sticking point, then step away and read a single issue before coming back. We’re now up to the issues I remember set in the Florida Everglades and the introduction of the Drednoks. I still have over 100 issues before I get to the new stuff I haven’t read but like the editing I’m making progress towards it.
expand on any point mentioned above, please say so in the comments.
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