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?
And this right here is why I write stand-alones. 🙂
I’m jealous of your ability to conceive of stand-alones. My characters refuse. (Though I do see potential one-shots in the future.)
i suck at editing. I want to know what they are eating, what soap tehy use bathing, the arguments they have over who gets to drive, i want them playing with kitties and …everything.
I want to know those things too, but alas, most of the time they don’t fit the pace of the plot. Though there’s no reason not to have them as plot-what-plot snippets on here…. Hmmm….
The short answer is no. Until A Shire Romance I never managed to write anything longer than a short story, and then I went into 1st person PoV, which really doesn’t lend itself to endless spinning out. Anyway, your psychology edits are probably fine, I just need to read them in their proper context rather than all lifted out and stuck together…
You’re doing great!
It’s a standard case of writer’s angst, I know. Still makes me want to beat the text with a sledgehammer until it cooperates.
>>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
Hehe, that’s probably going to change how I read your fight scenes from now on 🙂 I think I need to re-read the end of book two again with that in mind.
>> This is probably why GRRM kills so many characters.
Okay, it’s not exactly like a FF game — none of my characters dress nearly so well, or can go five minutes without getting rolled through the dirt. Or are that pretty. Uhhh… 😉
I feel for you. Trying to keep all plot-lines moving of an ever expanding universe without the overall storyline grinding to a halt is one of the major challenges of writing multi-volume fiction. I can see why GRRM decided to split his plot into two for the last two books, one volume concentrating on each half, just to ensure enough progress was made in each. It’s also a reason why the Wheel of Time series felt as if it was treading water from books six to nine.
I wish you all the best of luck with the rest of your editing!
Thanks so much! My recent idea of editing the book by ‘threads’ — the three main interwoven plot-lines — has helped me a lot in keeping things under control, but even then, there are a lot of characters with a lot of agendas. I hope I never have to separate them so much that they’re in their own volumes. Crossing my fingers.
Why not make ‘spin off’ novels – stuff that happened but you didn’t have room for in the main books. you can make all the notes, and then futz with them later.
The Adventures of Rian
Arik goes for walkies
Lark gets her nipples waxed
Cob gets a haircut
see, you can make them like archie comics!
I’m planning some post-series one-shots, and also some short-story compilations that might be less short-story and more outtake/vignette. Like that Bed, Wed, Behead idea.