Languishing No More

Those of you who’ve been following me for a time know that I published the first book in the Redemption of Erâth series all the way back in 2014, with the second coming out over two years ago in 2016. And whilst I finished the draft of the third book over the summer of 2016, it’s been languishing in edit hell for going on two years.

Some of that time, of course, was spent away from the increasingly detailed fantasy world of Erâth whilst I worked on my first young adult novel, 22 Scars (published last November). And as much as I’ve been putting effort into publishing, publicizing and marketing this other story, I’ve been longing to return to Erâth and continue the story of Brandyé, Elven, Elỳn and their family and friends.

Over the past few months, I’ve (slowly) spent time revising, cutting and editing book  three of the series, entitled Ancients & Death. It’s at a place now where I believe it’s as good as I can possibly make it, from both a story point of view as well as an editing point of view. I feel like it’s ready for the world, and I want to get it out to you all.

However – if I do so, it’ll be the first time I’ve published a novel without a professional edit. And I’m very reluctant to proceed without it. I’ve used the same wonderful editor for all my novels so far – both fantasy and otherwise – and she’s been instrumental in improving the style, pacing and fluidity of everything I’ve ever written. So why would I forgo her this time?

In a nutshull, it comes down to budget. As good as she is, she’s also expensive – for me, anyway. And in that regard, I’ve come to realize that I need to prioritize my projects. I’m not making any money from writing; I’ve invested far more into my books than I’ve made back (by a factor of hundreds), and as much as I appreciate the vast improvements it’s made in their quality, I just can’t afford it anymore.

So what I’ve had to do is learn from the edits she’s provided, and try to apply the same mentality to Ancients & Death myself. It started with severe cutting; I chopped something around 25,000 – 30,000 words from the original draft. Then I moved onto continuity, looking at the events and timelines to ensure they made sense. Finally, I read through the novel as slowly and in as much detail as I could, looking for every spelling, grammar and typo error I could find.

I think I learned a great deal about structure over the past eight years since I started writing, and I believe the pacing and action of Ancients & Death is far superior to both Consolation and Exile. This is important, because it’s one of the things I’ve been faulted for in the past by both my editor and my readers. I really can’t wait to see what you think of the result here.

At the end of the day, one of the advantages of self-publishing is the ease with which I can put out updates, corrections and revisions should they be found post-publication. But as far as the overall story goes, I’m pleased with it. And I’m ready to share it.

That means that – sooner, rather than later – there’ll be a third installment in the Redemption of Erâth series. And I can’t wait to tell you when it’s going to drop!

The Necessary Hell of Editing

When I completed the first draft of my third book, Ancients & Death, I was proud of the fact that I had managed to slog through over two years’ worth of work to produce a 180,000-word book. Even though I realized that, with some chapters in excess of 10,000 words, there would be some editing to do, I didn’t consider that at the time; it was simply a matter of getting a huge amount of writing done.

Now, of course, I’m faced with a different dilemma. Although writing a book is hard enough work, editing it is, if anything, even harder. And I’m not talking about fixing grammar, punctuation and spelling mistakes; I’m not even talking about plot holes and continuity errors. I’m talking about cuts. Drastic cuts.

I had originally intended the third book to be around 150,000 words – half as long again as the first book, yet by no means the longest I intend in the series overall. And as wonderful as it is to think of an epic tome as being simply long, there comes a point where a book becomes too long, and thus dull and uninteresting to the reader. (Stephen King, though he’s one of my favorite writers, seems never to have learned this lesson.)

This meant, of course, cuts to the novel. In some cases, drastic cuts. after all, reducing a chapter from 6,500 to 6,000 words might be a case of removing a few unnecessary details or paragraphs; cutting a chapter from 11,000 to 6,000 means removing entire scenes, and ones that have a lasting importance throughout the novel.

Here, of course, comes the true pain of editing; not the arduous tedium of line editing, but the emotional pain of removing huge tracts of text that you worked so hard to craft in the first place. An example comes in the eleventh chapter, where a pivotal scene in which the main character is saved by Death. As important as it felt to make it clear that the forces of Death can also preserve life, it didn’t advance the immediate plot and action, and so it was cut. It hurt, because I’d thought of it as a pretty damn good scene.

In the end, I managed to cut almost 15,000 words from the total, bringing it just within 10% of the original intended length. And while there may be more cuts in the future, I’m at least happy that the overall story is a little tighter, a little shorter, and a little easier to read. Now comes the process of going back over the cuts and joining  them back together, stitching the seams and smoothing the gaps, so it sees as though it’s how it was always meant to be.

Then I can start the line edits.

Oh, what hell editing is.