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.

The current state of Grim Curio & Peculiar Case of the Luminous Eye

It’s been a while since I stepped away from all things blog and social media related. December 2018 came around and I felt like I needed to avert my gaze from the internet for a time. But I’ve remained busy, so today I’ll take a moment to share with you what’s been going on.

Grim Curio

Grim Curio is my current major work in progress, a novel about the refugees in the last city on left earth after three calamities ravaged the planet. Last year I sent it out to 15 beta readers, received excellent feedback, then set the novel aside for a while to get some perspective.

In that off time, I wrote Peculiar Case, but when that work finished, I returned to edit Grim Curio and have been hard at work ever since. The edits are going slow but well. After editing and reading the first quarter of the novel several times, I feel like it’s almost in a finished state.

So that leaves three quarters of the novel left to go. Here’s the kind of changes I’m making:

More explicit communication of themes

I’m being more explicit about my themes. There are lots of themes that touch on the current state of the world, but turn them on their head. I didn’t shy away from controversial topics in the earlier drafts, but now I’m making everything explicit.

Readers of the latest edits have really responded to this, and it seems the direct nature of the themes makes them take a second to think not only about the state of the world of Grim Curio but about the state of the real world as well, which is what I want. It’s entertaining but hopefully will shift something in your brain if I do my job right.

Seamless transition between narration and character thought

One goal of mine was to make the reader feel like they intimately understand the main characters. I want you to feel like you’re in their heads, but I also hate italics as thought markers in other novels, and I feel like jumping from narration to internal thought is jarring in most novels.

So I came up with a stylistic solution that I’ve never seen done before and I’m really proud of. In the current edit, I’m spreading this style of internal thought through seamless narration shifts throughout. It takes a lot of thought to make it work but it’ll be worth it in the end.

Adding scenes where there seems to be a gap in the story or logic

This is an obvious one, but occasionally the jump from one scene to the next is jarring. In the previous draft, the reader would need to piece together what might have happened to get from one scene to the next. This issue wasn’t prevalent throughout but there were definitely a few times where it pops up.

In most cases, a paragraph or two seems to solve the issue, but in one major case I’m adding an entire new chapter. As you might imagine, this is the most time consuming part of the edit as new scenes take several pass throughs and edits themselves in order to be brought up to snuff with the rest of the novel.

Removing some experimental narration

In the earlier drafts, I had many cases where I was trying something new. I wanted to create an atmosphere where the narrator could occasionally address the characters as if a character itself. While I enjoyed it, it was clear my readers we very split on these bits.

It was an experiment after all and it looks as if the experiment failed. So I’m rewriting these scenes to follow a more traditional style of narration. Perhaps another day in another novel I’ll be able to perfect this, but for now I’m cutting my losses and moving on without this element to the novel.

So that’s what’s been going on with Grim Curio. But there’s another novel I have up in the air, and I’ve been getting a lot of questions about it, so let’s take a sec to talk about Peculiar Case.

The Peculiar Case of the Luminous Eye

I had planned on documenting the publication process of this one and I dropped the ball when I stepped away from the internet. So here’s what’s happening with that.

Last year I published Peculiar Case on Patreon before I sending it out to publications. I learned something through that process. Apparently, publications consider having something published on Patreon as “previously published” and most won’t accept it at that point.

Currently, it’s still readable to patrons on my Patreon page. For now, I’ve stopped sending it out to magazines. I have two options with it, self publish or keep it in my back pocket until after Grim Curio is published so I have a nice follow-up novel. I’m leaning towards the latter.

So Peculiar Case is out there for you to read if you want to be a patron, but for publishing purposes, I’m holding off for the time being while I strategize my publishing career. It’s a bummer, but I think to wait, in the long run, will work out to my benefit.

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.

Eyes on the Future – Two Years of Writing & Publishing Goals

Photo by Clark Young on Unsplash

You can’t get far in life without a plan. Well, maybe you can, but I’ve never had much luck without it. When I try to pants my life, things tend to get missed along the way. Over the past five years, I’ve become more of a planner, plotting out points I want to hit in order to reach my goals.

After a few months of thought, I’ve created a series of goals for both the writing and publishing side of things and now I want to share these plans with you. The idea is: 1) as a reader of mine, you can have a clear view of what to look forward to in the future (yay!), 2) if you’re an emerging writer, you might be able to draw a bit of inspiration from my goals and learn from my mistakes to inform your own career.

Writing Goals

The following all center around projects I plan to begin and finish within the next two years. Let’s dive in.

1. Output – Write a book per year

First a soft goal. Many writers I follow have mentioned this magic number for building a career out of publishing, both trad and indie (read traditional publishing and self publishing). Most recently, Brandon Sanderson mentioned this goal in his Fantasy/Sci-fi college course which I highly recommend both for readers and writers.

This is a goal I think I can hit, as my writing output has increased dramatically since the first stage of my writing career. This might not be readily apparent to you, my reader, but give it a year and you’ll start to see the fruits of my labors as the books start hitting shelves with a regular cadence.

2. Complete Grim Curio by November

I plan on finishing a complete draft of Grim Curio soon. I wrote 35,000 words in 4 months, and that included a massive rewrite that halted progress for a full month and a half. Given my current output, I think November is a tight but realistic goal to hit, and I’ll keep you posted on this as we get closer.

Once the draft is done, I’ll do a full revision to make sure it’s as good as it can be on my own, and then I’ll send it out to beta readers (which will hopefully include you 😍). While Grim Curio is being shredded to pieces by you lot, I’ll start looking for the right literary agent while drafting my next project. Which leads us too…

3. Write The Gin Thief: Episode 2 by February 2018

The Gin Thief was the follow up to Discovering Aberration an episodic series of novellas I pitched via Kickstarter a couple years ago. It got funded to the tune of $500. Shortly after I published the first episode. A few weeks later stuff happened in my life, and as a result I stopped writing for two years.

The Gin Thief was the main casualty of this upheaval… apart from losing my entire marketing funnel and all the good will I’d built up with my reader base. Sorry about that. I’m working hard on fixing it as best I can.

For a long time, The Gin Thief has had this emotional brick attached to it that really weighed down my efforts to pick it up again, but I’ve finally worked past that. Now I’m ready to jump back in. I’ll write Episode 2 by end of February, and hopefully publish before summer of the same year.

From there, I plan on immediately finishing the series and publishing episodes regularly.

4. Write Discovering Aberration 2 by mid 2019

This goal is a year or two in the future, and things might change by then. Maybe Grim Curio takes off, and I have a larger Science Fiction fan base than a Steampunk one. In that case I’ll likely jump on another sci-fi work before revisiting DA2. So, while this goal may pivot at some point, the current plan is to follow up TGT with DA2.

After this, we’ll have to see. I have another story I’ve been thinking about writing which I think is technically categorized as Dream Punk (so many punk genres), but 2019 is a ways off, so other ideas might surface.

Publishing Career Goals

This section is for all the things I need to do that relate to my writing career, but aren’t directly writing novels. Mostly it involves communicating with my readers, and building an active reader base to launch future books to. In the end, you guys are what make what I enjoy doing possible.

1. Write a formal letter of apology to The Gin Thief kick started backers

Wow, it’s hard to publicly mess up and recover. Nobody has been after me about TGT stalling, no one is breaking down the door or anything, but I still feel terrible about the debacle. When I set out to launch TGT kickstarter campaign, I didn’t foresee the upheaval my life was about to go through, nor did I imagine that anything would stop me from writing.

Anyway, I’ve put this off long enough. It’s time to repair the damage. My next step before I do anything else is to write a letter of apology, update my backers on my plan, and then deliver. TGT will be completed, and I think I’ll be able to write a better series now than I could have before. Fingers crossed my backers take it well.

2. Rebuild my marketing funnel before Summer 2017

I used to be really good about building my mailing list which in turn did a great job of spreading the word of new releases and book promotional events. I had specific methods for readers to sign up for my mailing list from by website, blog, social networks, live events and book back matter. This was my funnel, and in the past couple years it’s fallen apart.

So it’s time to rebuild. In the coming months I’m going to:

  • Rebuild the website so its more than just a blog. On it I’ll include easy to discover links to my mailing list and a page dedicated to my books. It’ll look great, and be focused.
  • Update the back matter in all of my currently published ebooks.
  • Refocus my social media efforts to connect with readers and direct them to my site or mailing list.

Basically I’m going to take my online presences and revamp it one thing at a time.

2. Get back into the convention game

Back when I was at my most active, I would rent booths at three or four conventions a year, meet people, sell books, and build my mailing list. It was awesome, and I’d gotten pretty good at it. My goal is to get back into conventions in the Pacific NW (USA and maybe Canada) Summer of 2017.

Summer 2017 will be when I really start focusing on spreading the word, and a lot of that work will be around conventions. I need to have The Gin Thief: Episode 2 published before I do another convention for a few reasons:

  1. I won’t do another convention with just one novel to sell. I’ve done plenty of those, and they went fine, but for my next conventions I want at least three novels, plus some swag.
  2. I don’t feel right about pushing TGTuntil TGT2 is finally released. It’s been too long between episodes, and I don’t want people to feel swindled.
  3. Finally, more books to sell just equals better convention for lots of reasons. If someone doesn’t like the sound of one book, I can pitch the other. Also, there’s the chance that someone buy’s all three. When they do that, it’s easier to break even on the costs of renting a booth, getting a hotel, and traveling. Breaking even (and spreading the word) is my goal, making a profit is just icing.

3. Explore Traditional Publishing

I’ve done the indie thing a few times now, and I’m pleased with what I’ve done. I still plan to continue indie publishing TGT and possibly DA2. But I also want to see what the grass is like on the other side of the fence. That’s why I’m not planning on publishing Grim Curio myself.

There’s a few reasons for this. The idea of being a hybrid suites me. I’ll enjoy having other people take on some of the work, and I’d like to see my books have the opportunity to be more widely distributed. I also think that once this happens, my indie books and my traditional ones will build on each other, possibly cross pollinating two different groups of readers. Lots of eggs in lots of baskets feels like the way to go for me.

Conclusion

So that’s my plan in a nutshell. Stick with me through this crazy publishing journey and you’ll see all these things come to fruition. I’ve got a lot of work ahead of me, but that’s ok. In the end, I’ll have more books published, more readers reading them, and more fun as I streamline my approach. I hope you stick around for the long term. If you see me falter, feel free to point it out either here on my blog, or on any of my social networks.

Until next time, keep on keeping on.