Getting the first two Windrider books up and running
Looking ahead to the tasks involved in creating the print compilation
Designing or at least having my fingers on the situation with my cover art
And now...delving into potentially massive edits for Sword of the Patron.
The other words that are ringing even louder in my ears, especially as I look at the underlying structure of Sword of the Patron, are the items I learned from David (Wolverton) Farland in the week long workshop I took with him. I have a checklist on my wall of things I specifically took away from that experience, which stare at me in red ink every time I sit down to work. The checklist goes like this (and these items are not in priority order, just so you know)
Setting: Is my setting vivid--either wondrous or resonant? What specific ways am I creating spectacle in terms of setting?
Theme: does every scene serve to expound upon either primary or secondary themes?
Hooks: Am I raising questions at key points in the scene?
Stakes: Am I making things matter? Are the circumstances difficult enough?
Conflicts: Does every scene serve to either deepen or broaden the conflict?
Hierarchy of Beats: Am I writing to my audience with the emotional beats of my scenes in mind?
Now, this one, I admit, requires a little explanation. Because I am writing fantasy for an older teen to adult audience, and because my primary reader will likely be female since I am a female writer with a female protagonist the hierarchy of beats I've decided I need in my work is all follows (and these are in priority order):
If I am not hitting one or more of these beats in a scene, generally, the scene is dead weight, and it needs to be trimmed or cut. The trick is hitting all the beats in the correct proportion without bloating the story just to get the beats in.
Now, admittedly, there are about 3,000 words that can go without question. I had a sense they would be on the cutting room floor even when I was selling the book at a conference back in August, so I had already severed emotional ties to the content. I wanted to retain the character in question to use in a later book so that I wouldn't have to create a new character for a coming scenario, but if I'm being truthful, that's one apple I can pull from the rows at no risk.
But the other 7,000 words--those are proving their elimination diffuses the danger. That much I can see despite my myopic author's view of the story.
I had really hoped that having the manuscript out of my hands and head for about three months would bring me back to it with a professional detachment that would make it easy for me to carve it up now that the time has come. But in some ways, it's become harder now. As I look at each passage and recall the sweat and tears involved in crafting it, I feel like I'm throwing away a long friendship. Yet at the same time, I know we as writers need to step back and take an impassive look at things, through the lens of our editors' input, and make the hard cuts.
I haven't gotten to the right answer here yet. And that's probably why this blog post sounds like I'm thinking out loud more than a cohesive commentary. I'll likely be posting occasional updates to the editing journey, and I hope they will be a help to my writer friends who read this, and at least an interesting peek at the process for the non-writers.
For now, it's time to get back to analysis of this ol' work in progress.