Wow, it’s looking a bit old and dusty around here, isn’t it? Sorry about that – as you might imagine, with Heir To The North looming on the horizon like great Leviathan rising to the surface, my attention has somewhat inevitably been focused elsewhere.
The editing process. Now there’s a mystery that sets all authors to trembling with fear. It’s the first time that I’ve had to hand over a full novel-length manuscript to an external editor, and I wasn’t certain what to expect. To make matters more complex, HTTN was written over a couple of years, and my own style changed between the first and last chapters (though not to the extent that I stopped over-writing. Heavens, no).
But now Heir To The North is slimmer, quicker, meaner, and actually a darn sight easier to read. Here’s what I learned during the process.
Change is not a bad thing. Likewise and conversely, editing is not a dictatorial process. At the end of it, your book is still your book. The point is that the writer’s tired eyes may not have seen problems with structure, continuity, verbosity etc. If you thought you were killing your darlings in the second, third (and seventeenth) drafts, then this will hurt a bit (a lot), but seriously it’s worth the pain. For example, here’s something I totally missed on my reads…
The editor does not hate your book. Far from it. The editor wants to make your book better, because s/he loves it and takes great pride in their work, just as much as the author does in their own. The trick is to realise that these first two points take your book to the next level.
Weasel words must die. At least, possibly, it seems to be that way.
Not everything has to be described as “old”. Or “great”. Or “great” and “old”. Some of the secondary characters in the book used to belong to Guhl’s Company, a band of Hellean soldiers. In the unedited version of the manuscript, they’re all described with the same phrase: “old soldiers”. When one talked to another, it became difficult to know who was talking to whom…
Make your action more actiony. Yes, really. Joanne Hall talks a good fight over here.
You are not a columnist for Fantasy Homes & Garden Magazine. This comes back to killing those darlings. It’s all very well lovingly describing Rann Almoul’s town house and the changes he made to it over the years, all to illustrate the man’s avaricious nature, but – really? Did I really need all that? Are we ever going to see that house again? (SPOILER: no.)
It’s easier to fix over-writing than it is to fix under-writing. And in this case a picture eloquently speaks a thousand words…..
Last, but not least – It’s not all bad. Far from it. Editing doesn’t have to be an attritional process and, indeed, nor should it be. Turns out, see, that I write good. Long, but good.
Heir To The North, by the way, is scheduled for release around October of this year. If you’re on Goodreads, you can add it to your TBR shelf over here.
Meanwhile, if you want an example of me writing short but good, look no further than the recent release of Under The Waves, the latest in the series of Fox Pockets from the wonderful Fox Spirit Books. My contribution, That Sinking Feeling, is a small but perfectly-formed piece of shaggy-dog fantasy fiction, even if I do say so myself.