The writing process: Editing is like a dance, but only with yourself

typewriter-1144164-639x426Edits – the most feared and foreboding word in the publishing industry. I don’t remember who said it or if I am butchering a paraphrase, but “being able to write does not make you an author, but being able to hack into your writing does.” Again, I probably did a terrible job saying that quote or might have even put multiple quotes together, I am not a philosopher.

However, I truly believe in those words.

Now that my focus had been re-directed toward my fantasy series once more and I had a plot I thought was original, I needed to re-visit what I had written. I mentioned how I added a new POV character and had to re-work her (Hunter) into the story. Well that, in the basic sense of the word, is editing. The first thing I did was replace the main male POV (Finn) with Hunter in many scenes that revolved around the love part of the story with the main female POV (Brynn). That was a challenge because I had to basically turn a male POV into a female, and we all know (especially myself after the contemporary thriller experiment) that men and women don’t think the same. So I had to shift the vision of each scene that was to be changed to fit a female voice.

Another thing I had to do was shift other characters in each scene to show there was a new character there. It sounds easy to drop a new character in a scene, but you cannot forget about the minor characters as well. The minor characters have their own opinions on how things are to be viewed and by adding a new character into the fold, they would also be impacted by it.

But that entire business with the new POV and the new plot/setting was just the first of the edits I had to do.

I have chosen fantasy for my preferred story genre, which is a blessing and a curse. Because fantasy (or Science Fiction) has more lenient guidelines in terms of publishing & writing, it gives some freedom to hone your world. Most books follow strict guidelines for work count and SFF genre typically allows a bigger window. My initial story, prior to the addition of a new character, was 142k words. A typical SFF book falls around 100-115k, so I knew I had to cut it down.

I had always planned a series, so I tried to find a good cutting point in there. When I did that, I added more characters and more chapters to fill the remaining words. It became a five book series. But I didn’t feel confident in the story at that point, it felt convoluted. So I decided to try and build a trilogy. I had it in my head that I could build the trilogy and then cut it down as needed, but I found that hard.

And then something strange happened and I am not sure how it came about but my writing became more clipped and concise. Looking back at my original manuscript, there were so many long sentences and way too much description. Don’t get me wrong, I love description but there are authors out there who put way too much description that I think it takes away from the story.

I think part of this came from working with a very close friend on editing the story. This lovely lady, who I will go by her initials AM, helped me not only fix my neverending grammatical errors, but also to shorten my writing. She has edited the first two books so far, but with her guidance, I have been able to carry that over into the final two.

Notice how I said final two? Well I had that trilogy in mind and I took a course from the Writer’s Digest (fantastic resources for all types of writers) that had us work directly with an agent. The agent then gave feedback and we were to take it to help our stories. I couldn’t have received better feedback at a time when I was feeling down about the prospects of getting published  (topic for part 5).

While I was finishing the final book, I saw this change come over my writing where I started to do more showing than telling the story. And with the agent’s feedback, I was now motivated to go back to the beginning and make it better. And that is what I did. I went back and decided to make it a four book series and was able to take the 3 books I had written and fit them into 4 solid books. I went back and cut useless scenes/dialogue, I cut out POVs (though I still have 8 major POVs in book 1 alone!), I moved POVs to different books in the series, and finally, I showed more than told. All in all, I now have 4 books all within those magical word count ranges (minus book four that is a bit over but still not terribly long).

It was a tedious process, but now that I have done it with all that I have learned over the last couple of years, I truly feel that getting the Dies Irae Cycle published is not as outlandish as it once seemed a couple of years ago…

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