Okay. This is completely not what I meant to blog about this month, and I may be getting a little personal here (har har, me? Never!)… but this is what I’ve been in the midst of lately. Plus, it can’t hurt to drift into the editing/polishing territory here on There and Draft Again, because it’s an important part of the writing process. So please bear with me. 🙂
I’ve been stuck in edits with my upcoming epic fantasy COLDNESS OF MAREK for awhile now, and as much as I love this story, it’s getting to that point where I begin to hate it. For me, once I get down to the nitty gritty, it becomes grueling. I start to question all of my decisions thus far and the text starts to look stupid and gangly.
For any writer, trimming down our words is painful and akin to shaving off pieces of the soul. But for a fantasy writer it becomes even more than that. You’ve created a whole world that reflects you in so many ways — things you think are good, or bitter, or right, or ugly — every facet is something you probably feel strongly about. You’ve spent hundreds (maybe thousands) of hours inventing this place, and then when it comes time for line edits, guess what else has to go besides pretty words? Yup. Pieces of your world. Anything that feels awkward or just doesn’t need to be there. Out.
If you’re being published traditionally, most likely someone else will be cutting out a lot of this stuff for you, but it will still hurt to see the result. If you’re doing it yourself or have hired someone to do it for you, it hurts a lot, too. Yet it must happen in order to make all that drafting, revising, and revising again worthwhile. It must happen in order to make that novel truly shine.
It’s hard not to get worn down in the process. You need help with this, for sure; you need friends who know how to be uber critical and uber supportive, and if you’re self-publishing, you need a professional editor before you’re done. In the midst it all, keeping your world consistent becomes increasingly complicated. And with all those world details to keep track of and hone, keeping the emotion in the story consistent becomes… well, complicated. You’re going to want to have your Fantasy Bible nearby, for sure.
I discovered there’s something else I need. Something I used to think was just for fun. But as soon as I got here, to this patch of crazy, I realized I needed it savagely. What is it? Emotional props. What for? To help keep myself on the same plane with my characters’ passions and loves. I didn’t have trouble with this in the drafting stage. Not even in the revision stage. But here? SO BAD, I NEED IT SOOOOO BAD!
Mine is a hodge podge pile, but it includes music, movies, youtube vids, outfits, Pinterest boards, other novels (usually completely unrelated to what I write), a font, a friend who understands why Marek and Trzl can’t be together… anything that connects me with the emotion in that story that I am now chopping into a million pieces. You’ll need things that rivet you down to the heart of your story, that strike that chord for you. Keep them handy. Not to influence your editing, but to influence you.
To remind you that there’s something lovely and shiny at the end of all of this. To keep the depth of your characters’ souls fresh and real. To convince you to stay the course tenaciously, to polish fervently and ruthlessly, because that heart and emotion is what all your words will say when you’re done.
Keep it alive.