The emotional struggle of editing a novel - header

The emotional struggle of editing a novel

How much insight do readers have into an authors mind? Not much I imagine. I wonder what readers picture when they consider what editing a novel feels like. From what I hear, it goes a little something like so:

A common conception of editing

The writer drafts in fits and flurries until one day those final words strike the page and the work is done. The final sentence written thoughtful and poignant. They print out a stack of paper and hand it off to an editor who attacks the page with red ink until it’s awash of circles and strikethroughs. The manuscript is returned, the writer fixes each mistake then hands it off to publishers.

For me, it’s rarely this simplistic. It’s a disparate and multifaceted process not easy to picture in a scene. My editing state of might is a stormy place fraught with internal struggles and achievements, sometimes thrilling, sometimes horribly boring, sometimes frustrating to no end, yet often rewarding as line by line the work is massaged into close to what it needs to be.

In the trenches

Editing is freeing, daunting, difficult, and when a piece finally feels like it’s coming together, it’s even gleeful. As I edit my current work, a science fiction novel with the working title Grim Curio, I find myself acting as my own therapist as I continually push forward. It’s a dark, supernatural, multi-dimensional, post-apocalyptic story of the last city on a dying earth and how it’s residence deal with the existential crises of being left behind when the rest of humanity escaped to another planet.

I’ve been actively editing Grim Curio for six months. When I look at the early chapters, it’s finally doing the difficult things. The tone feels right. The writing style has the rhythm I want, terse at times and sometimes flowy, sometimes both. It feels punchy in moments as if chewing on the world’s grit. It’s provocative, doesn’t shy away from anything, but balances that with lingering moments of humanity and introspection. There are layers to this shit, man. And in those edited chapters, I feel like its all come together.

To me, that’s glee. I’m hyped on my own cool-aid. But there’s still a long way to go. When you’re writing your heart out, these things take a hellova long time. And I see the mountain of text ahead of me and I keep asking myself, how am I going to get the rest where it needs to be?

The daunting task

That’s daunting as hell, seeing hundreds of pages left to fix up, expand, contract, and otherwise make good. But I have plans, testing strategies. I’m returning to old standby methods when words get dicey and I need to make it right. Part of me is always stressed that I’m taking too much time. Pacing through a single chapter over and over just getting everything flowing can take weeks, can become monotony.

But every pass, I get to ask myself more questions as the work get’s closer too intent. What am I trying to say? What is that character thinking? Who wants what right now? How are they trying to get it? Did this really come from my messed up mind? Sometimes things get darker than even I’m comfortable with, but that’s ok because that’s the story I’m trying to tell.

My wierd existential angst

Then there’s this other weird layer of thought on top of all this, something I try not to think about often, but it comes up. It’s selfish and it’s dark. The most stressful thing about editing is time. It takes a lot of time. And somewhere in the back of my mind, I wonder, what if the world doesn’t have enough time for me to publish my book? What if we’re on a downward trajectory, whether that’s environmental or political, that escalates to the point where another published book doesn’t matter anymore. It’s the most selfish way to think about our current situation. What if we break down as a society and I took too long to get the book to market? Everything I worked for disappears. 

Meh. Hopefully, that doesn’t happen. I’ll keep planting trees in my yard, try to make choices that positively affect the world, and keep on editing cause that’s just what I do.

All wrapped up into a singular process

That’s what goes through my mind while editing. The joys and difficulties and angst. You know what? You have to enjoy the process because in the end, all you’re left with is a bunch of words on some pages that hopefully some people will read and turn into something more. But all you can control is the process, so you enjoy the hard times, turn the stress into a game, and hopefully create something you can be proud of. Soon this process will end and I’ll start over again with another book. It’ll be worth it no matter what because the process is worth it.

Banner image - How do I know when I'm done editing?

When is it time to move on to the next chapter?

As I’m neck deep in the editing process of Grim Curio, I continually find myself against the problem of knowing when a chapter is “complete”. It’s a weird thing because it’s entirely possible to edit too much. I know cause I’ve done it.

For me, when a chapter is nearing completion I can read through it without being interrupted by external thoughts. I like to feel completely immersed. So if I find a clunky phrase, it’s gotta be unclunked. If I wonder about a logic gap, that gap’s gotta be filled. And if any scene or emotion doesn’t strike me as true, it’s gotta be truified.

The only way I can know this is done is by reading through my chapters over and over again, and that takes time. A lot of time. So my process is slow, likely imperfect, but when I get a chapter feeling right, I know it. That’s when I’m able to move on. It’s a feeling.

Now I need to work on getting to that point faster.

Attempt #1 – Publishing Peculiar Case

Hello dear reader. It’s been a while. I’ve been away from the internet for most of the holidays. It wasn’t exactly planned, but it wasn’t terrible either. Hope you had a great holiday season, happy new year, and and a general good go at things.

As for me, I have news about my recent novelette The Peculiar Case of the Luminous Eye. I finished writing it early December and shared with beta readers and Patrons, but now I’m taking the next step and reaching out to publications!

I just submitted Peculiar Case to Asimov Magazine and I’m hopeful it’ll find a home in one of their upcoming issues. You never know how these things will go, but I’m feeling great about this story. Publishing it in a reputable place will help me achieve one of my many goals of 2019.

Specifically, I want to expand my fan base and make my next novel, Grim Curio, a best seller. I’m hoping Peculiar Case is able to take me a step closer to both those goal.

Seth Godin said something along the lines of, “Don’t go looking for agents, write something so compelling that they come looking for you.” That’s my mentality right now. There very well may come a time where I actively search for agents, but till then, I hope to publish Peculiar Case somewhere where it will be noticed and unable to be ignored.

So that’s what I’ve been working on the past month. Cross your fingers for me. And if you’ve read any good books lately, be sure to let me know in the comments.

Why Scivener is the Best Novel Writing Software » Behind the Novel Ep. 1

I’ve been talking about making this series for about two months now, and I finally got around to making the first episode. Welcoming to Behind The Novel, the series where I’ll share my novel writing process every step of the way.

Originally I was going to just jump into showing you the writing process, but after a little consideration, I thought it best to start with the most prominent tool I use: Scrivener.

So this first episode is a brief introduction to Scrivener. You’ll learn why I like it, what benefits it provides, as well as be reminded that masterpieces are written using everything from Microsoft Word to typewriters to pen and paper.

So if you can’t afford Scrivener, never fear. In this case you’ll be in good company. I don’t think Dante used Scrivener either when he wrote The Devine Comedy.

Anyway, I hope you enjoy the video. There are more on the way.

PNWA Novel Contest Results

Before we dive into the results of my PNWA novel contest entry, I’ve got a bit of an announcement. I’m making video content now! That’s one more way for you to get to know me. I may not be great at it yet, but I’m learning as I go. More videos to come.

So, the contest. 

About five or six months ago I submitted my manuscript for Grim Curio to the Pacific Northwest Writers Association novel contest. Recently I received the results of my entry, and unfortunately I didn’t win.

But I feel really great about it anyway. Why?

As part of the contest, I received two detailed critiques from literary agents who were judging the competition. These were rave critiques. In fact, they lead me to believe that I didn’t advance in the competition due to a technical error on my part. I was supposed to submit a synopsis of my novel, but I submitting something closer to a query letter.

In the video above I share a bit more about the process, some of the feedback I received, and talk about why this rejection has actually boosted my confidence. There’s always next year.

Announcing Discovering Aberration: Revised Edition (and how to get it for free)

Not long ago I announced I was done writing the first draft of Grim Curio. Now it’s time for me to switch gears while I give GC to beta readers and confidants for feedback. I’ll come back to it in a few months, but til then I have a few other projects lined up.

As many of you already know, the next project on my slate is writing the long overdue The Gin Thief: Episode 2. So long overdue, in fact, that I need a refresher on the subject material. So I’m rereading Discovering Aberration and The Gin Thief: E1. Which leads me to the meat of this post…

Discovering Aberration: Revised Edition coming soon!

That’s right. I’m giving DA some love this year. The biggest criticisms it received were around mistakes in proofreading. So while I read through it, I’m revising and re-releasing it. In fact, I’m already 20% of the way through it.

What is the goal with this revision?

My plan is to keep my touch as light as possible while addressing it’s issues. It wont turn into a full rewrite. The structure and plot will remain identical. Instead, my goal is to simply clean up sections that need it, trim some of the fat, and fix errors.

Why are you revising it?

Simple, it’s weaknesses are holding it back. Initially the novel released to pretty strong sales, but they have declined to a trickle. I’ve tried to diagnose the issues and believe they are as follows:

  • Reviews that focus on poor proofreading
  • A convoluted first scene in chapter 1
  • A cover that doesn’t match its genre (possibly, will know after I address the issues above)
  • My own hesitation to sell a book with known errors

I need to address these if I don’t want DA to end up holding my career back. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but it does need to be better.

Will it get a new cover? 

I don’t know yet. I love Discovering Aberration‘s cover. The team at The Book Designers did a fantastic job. They followed all my instructions and created a work of art. I have no complaints about the cover itself or their work.

But…. I’ve now been in publishing for a few years, and I’ve learned a lot I didn’t know then. In this case, the cover I told them to make DA doesn’t look like other books in its genre and that may be affecting sales. It’s likely that a new cover which better matches steampunk best sellers will entice more readers to give it a chance.

It’s a tough question, and potentially one with an expensive answer. Not sure what I’m going to do anything with the cover, time will tell I guess.

Will this delay The Gin Thief: Episode 2?

Just a bit. But as I said, I’m keeping my touch light and in just over a week and a half I’m 20% through it. I’m not rewriting, I’m cleaning up. So the delay should be minimal. I need to read through the book anyway to immerse myself back into that universe, and in the end this will be the best thing for my writing career. TGT: E2 is coming, and this is part of the process.

When will the revised edition be released?

Don’t know. I’ve given up with release dates. I’ve never once made an accurate prediction, so I’m not trying anymore. It’ll be released as soon as it’s done, hopefully not long. My goal is to have both DA: RE and TGT: E2 out by the end of the year. Is that goal realistic? I don’t know, but it’s what I’m shooting for.


If you want to receive a FREE copy of Discovering Aberration: Revised Edition upon its release, sign up for my mailing list. When it’s out, I’ll be gifting every one of my mailing list subscribers a free digital copy.

Grim Curio’s First Draft is Finished

via GIPHY

After roughly a year and a four months, I’ve finished drafting Grim Curio! I climbed the largest mountain on the road to publishing my next work, and I feel thrilled. This is easily my most ambitious project yet, and I’m really proud of it so far.

There’s still a lot of work ahead, but you’ve got to take time to celebrate every accomplishment or you’ll get burned out in this game. I’m celebrating by taking a couple of weeks off writing and playing God of War or something. I’ll probably get antsy before the break is up and start writing again, but that’s the plan anyway.

Fun Facts

In its current state, Grim Curio clocks in at 112,000 words. It has 3 parts consisting of 29 chapters. If I were to print it, double spaced sized 12 font, it would be 436 pages.

The first and last 5 chapters easily took up the bulk of the writing time. Beginnings and endings are hard, but beginnings have the advantage of fresh enthusiasm. There were several rewrites of the first 10 chapters before I got the feeling right, and one major revision midway through.

What now?

Now I’m going to put Grim Curio aside for a couple of months to let it rest. Then I’ll come back to it with fresh eyes and tons of notes from my beta readers. In the meantime, I’m already starting work on my next few projects. I’ll talk a bit more about them later, but they involve a t-shirt, another book, and possibly Patreon.

When will Grim Curio be published?

That’s a big question I get asked often. Unlike Discovering Aberration and The Gin Thief, I don’t plan on publishing Grim Curio myself. Instead I’ll query agents, get representation, find a publisher, then go through the traditional process. This process may take a year or two to complete. We’ll see.

In short, I don’t know when it’ll be published.

In the mean time…

I’ve got a lot of work on other projects ahead of me. I’ll continue to keep you posted on all of the comings and goings here, so stop by often. And sign up for my mailing list if you want to be notified when Grim Curio get’s published.

Why and How I’m Creating a T-Shirt for Grim Curio

Lately I’ve had my heart set on designing a t-shirt. As all my friends in the office can attest, I’ve been bugging the hell out of them over t-shirt logo’s and designs. It’s a weird obsession, I get it, but one I’m gonna see through.

Why create a t-shirt?

For the Beta Readers

Over the last few months, I’ve had tremendous support from my team of beta readers. They read an early copy of Grim Curio, enduring my own slow pace. I’d call them all out to thank them by name, but I know privacy is something a lot of them care about, so I won’t do that. But these guys are the best.

Do I need to clarify that by guys I mean men and women? I’m from the North West and that’s just what we call everybody.

As a way to show my thanks, I want to gift my beta readers something special. Not something that will be stored away and forgotten, or worse yet, thrown away. Something they can show off and be proud of. A symbol of their contribution to Grim Curio. So naturally, a t-shirt.

For fans and supporters

If you’ve been a writer in the trenches, you know how important it is to have swag. When you stand behind a table trying to sling books, it gets rough sometimes. But then comes someone who want’s to support you all the way to the bank. They like you, your work, and want you to keep creating, so they buy everything. These wonderful people fuel the arts, and the more you can offer them, the more they’ll give back to you.

Why a shirt?

To be fair, a shirt is probably just the beginning. But shirts are awesome for a few reasons. It’s a walking piece of art that I’ve created. That’s pretty cool. More than that, if someone wears it, they’re also spreading the word about my work without have to, you know, interact with people 👍. Not only are they supporting me with their hard-earned money, but by spreading the good word. We call these people saints.

Eventually there might be mugs and posters, but we’re getting way way WAY ahead of ourselves……

The Design

Here’s the status of where we are. I’ve been coming up with concepts for almost a month, and I think I’ve finally landed on one that’s pretty good. Here it is.

This design is representative of several themes from Grim Curio. At the top we have the planet Mars, the place where many people on Earth dream of going. Below that, an eye looks up, showing the only place where hope lies in this book. The eye is red, a side effect of not wearing a full face respirator outside. The eye also appears to be stabbed by the tower below, just as an eye is gouged in the novel — which comes with plot affecting benefits.  Then there’s the tower itself, which is a massive part of the third act. Behind it is the red sun whose rays look like flames, representative of a specific even in the novel. Then there are the ruined buildings, which are the city, and the rolling earth before it which is inspired by the cover of Roadside Picnic and represents the rubble and the wastes.

So there’s a lot here that relates to the novel. Is the design good? I don’t know. I think it needs polish, but it’s maybe 80% of the way there. Some of the lines need to be cleaned up. Mars needs to be smaller, and maybe the eye too. Also, I need to figure out the color of the shirt.

If you are a beta reader, or if you have any thoughts, insight or suggestions, feel free to let me know in the comments. If are interested in buying a shirt, sign up for my mailing list in the link at the top of the site, and I’ll let you know when they go on sale.

Behind the scenes

I’d been trying to come up with a t-shirt design for a while. Here’s a concept I had midway through the process.

I liked this because it’s a minimalistic self-portrait and could be cool on a shirt. I don’t like it because, as one of my friends pointed out, no woman will wear that… Haha. So no go for the first shirt, but I might revisit it for later.

Then I came up with this.

I kind of like the idea of this… but in practice it looks pretty… phallic. Soooo…. it needed some refinement. But you can see how the design above was born from this.

I decided to draw several elements of the design on their own sheets of paper. So I started with the eye and mars. Then I layered on top of it the tower and the cityscape, cutting them up with an exacto-knife.

Finally, I added the sun in the background to come to where we are today. Here it is again for good measure.

That’s it. Sign up for the mailing list to get the opportunity to pre-order this shirt when all the details are ironed out. See you around.

Planning a Novel: The Spark of an Idea

While writing Grim Curio is still in full swing (but nearing its end), I’ve been thinking about future projects a lot lately. I have two other novels in the works, The Gin Thief episodes and an untitled novel I’m co-writing with my wife, Tana.

She’s not much into social networking or blogging, but she’s a voracious reader and you can follow her on Goodreads. Last year she read well over 100 books and this year she’s already on track to surpass that.

I’ve been asking her for a while, “When are you going to write your own novel?” and she shrugs.

She’s the reader, I’m the writer. But I knew there was a story inside her if I could just coax it out. So during an hour long drive, I grilled her. I started with the broad questions. “If you were to write your novel,” I asked, “What genre would it be?”

She was skeptical of my motives, but after a little coaxing she opened up. “My favorite books are mash-ups of Science Fiction with a Fantasy element,” she said. Turns out, she likes the Sci-fi aesthetic, and magic systems from novels like the Mistborn trilogy. Sounds good to me.

“I really like the plot of Treasure Island,” she said. One of my favorite novels. Scored a big point with that one. “I’m interested in a science fiction retelling of Treasure Island with magic and a heist.”

I was taken aback. “That sounds amazing. I’d totally read that. In fact, I’d totally write that.”

We tossed ideas back and forth, getting more and more specific along the way. And what we came up with was this.

It’s a mess. But it’s also a jumping off point.

Let’s say you’re interested in writing your own novel, but don’t know where to start. What can you take away from this?

Find someone to bounce ideas off of

As it turns out, Tana has more interesting ideas than I do. Go figure. She’s read everything under the sun. She’d throw me an idea, and I’d build on it and throw it back. Pretty soon we had the seed of what could be a promising story.

It’s important to remember that there really isn’t such a thing as a bad idea in this stage. It’s ok to say, “That’s been done before,” or “I’d rather see something like…” But don’t shoot the other person’s ideas down. They are doing you a service, and if you want their continued support, be encouraging.

Start broad, then go more and more narrow

You’ll notice that in the beginning there wasn’t a specific idea. But as we explored settings and themes and plot structure, we began to get more and more specific.

Of course this isn’t the only way to go. In fact, this is the first time I’ve ever attempted to create a novel this way. But it seems to have worked well.

Alternative ways to begin a novel include: start with a character, start with the plot, find an idea you want to explore, find an aesthetic, or just find a book you want to emulate. It really doesn’t matter where the spark of the idea comes from. Just find a something you love and run with it.

Ideas change

What you brainstorm here will likely not be your final product. What sounds amazing in the idea generation phase may be terrible once executed. There’s no way to know until you do it.

Embrace change. Pivot once you realize something isn’t working. Don’t hold yourself to your early ideas, because in the end it doesn’t matter how you started, only how you finish.

Realize that this is just the first step

The work is only just beginning. An idea isn’t worth the paper it’s written on unless you follow through with it. Writing a novel is a lot of sustained hard work. Be prepared to follow through for months and months in the trenches, taking fire and shooting back until… you’re novel is written I guess. Not a great analogy, but I’m keeping it.

That’s all I have for today. Hope you enjoyed this peek behind the scenes. If you’re looking for more on this subject, checkout my blog post called Find Inspiration, Generate Ideas, and the Myth of the Perfect Concept.

My Roadmap: A flow chart of what I’m working on

Right now I’m working on so many projects, sometimes it’s hard for me to keep them straight. I imagine it might also be difficult for you to follow along. So to try to, eh, clarify, I created this flowchart.

The bar on the left measures a project’s level of completeness. The bar on the bottom signifies time. So the projects in the top right are nearly complete but way in the future. To be honest, I’m not sure how much it does clarify. Maybe I’ll take another crack at it sometime in the near future.