Ahh, editing. The endless war.
I have two solid books out there, so it shouldn’t be too hard, right? I know what I’m doing. I have a Plan.
But the most difficult part of editing the third book in this (six-book) series has been keeping hold of the reins. Because after two books’ worth of tension and thread-spinning, there’s a lot going on — yet I can’t let it build too high or veer off in over-the-top directions. There are some sharp dramatic peaks here, but there are grander ones I need to save for the true end.
It’s difficult, though. I know what’s going on in the background — all the magical and divine mechanics at work behind the scenes. I just had to cut about three pages of a character ruminating on those topics, not just because they happened during a fight scene (which, granted, is something I’m told I’m good at — plot/world revelations during combat) but because they’re way ahead of their time. A big part of my concept of that character is based on things that will happen in books 4-6, and I have to remind myself constantly that they haven’t happened yet.
And as for another character… I realized just recently that I’d dropped the ball with his emotional/psychological journey. I just went through about eight chapters to patch/adjust/smooth out his behavior and add some important details, and since my main beta reader had already read those chapters, the edits jumped out at her more than usual. I don’t want to be ham-handed with this business, but it needs to be there and be clear what’s going on with him… It’s a delicate balance.
And then, after all those adjustments, I started looking over the chapter where I’d already scrapped the three pages of spoiler-info, and realized that it was grandiose bullshit. I like to think of my higher-powered combat/magic scenes as being similar to a cut-scene you might see in a Final Fantasy game or some crazy fantasy anime, but I still need to keep elements of actual threat, actual impact and grounding… But this chapter had just kind of flung itself off the roof and tried to fly.
Prior to this, the book had been fairly free of extensive rewrites, but I’m halfway through a new version of the chapter that changes…basically everything. It’s not a huge problem because this chapter ends a certain plot-thread, after which things can continue as written, but it makes me wonder what I was thinking when I wrote this chapter for the first time. Why, early me? Whyyyyyy?
Anyway, just some rumination on the editing process. Beside that hiccup, things are moving smoothly — I’m in the final thread of the story, about a third of the way through, and have cut 35 pages from it — in addition to the approx. 30 pages each that I chopped out of the other two threads. I’m looking well on track to reducing this book to a printable size — fortunately without scalping any scenes. My rough-draft tactic of throwing everything but the kitchen sink into the story seems to have made me unduly concerned.
Regardless, the experience has given me a new respect for any author who has to keep it together for more than two or three interlinked books. The amount of cross-checking, inventory-tracking, spoiler-removing, arc-managing, and general pacing-and-tension-maintenance I’ve had to do has been rough, and I’m only halfway through.
This is probably why GRRM kills so many characters.
How about you guys? Anyone else wrestling with extended story issues?