The dream with this new trilogy was to gloriously complete a draft of the second book and a detailed plan for the third by the end of the year, therefore 6 or 7 months before publication of the first book, leaving time enough to edit the first book in the light of all I had learned about the series. I hadn’t thought through this very clearly, however (surprise, surprise). Because this is a new style of work, with new publishers wanting the attention of a wider spread of critics, authors, booksellers, and other advance readers, some of whom won’t have heard of me before, they want to get Advance Reader Copies (Otherwise called ARCs, proofs, or galleys) out before the end of the year. That means having a fully edited, finished, polished manuscript by end of September. There’ll probably be the opportunity to make a couple of changes after that point, if the way the future books are developing necessitates a pointer or an addition, but the heavy lifting needs to be done over the next few weeks.
I have at least got a good 20,000 word draft of the first part of the second book, and a reasonable plan for the rest, and doing that much has given me some new characters and world details that need to be slipped into the first book, some concepts that maybe need a little development, and some different emphases on existing characters that will be important later. I’ve taken that stuff, along with a few things that I’ve thought of myself, and collected it together with the opinions of five or six various readers and editors, and sorted it all into a list of changes in three categories. First of all come significant specific changes – things like an additional exchange to deepen the relationship between two characters, or that a decision should be made by the central character rather than be a suggestion of a secondary one, or that the death of a certain character isn’t having the desired effect, and needs looking at again to see if it can impact more on the characters and therefore the reader. These ones I’ll address first, hopefully this week.
Next come more general tweaks, still important, but not necessarily to be implemented in a certain place – so a greater sense of urgency about the development of a sub-plot, or a relationship that needs to be given a different emphasis or extra significance. Finally there are minor points which might be addressed wherever appropriate, often details of worldbuilding or background which just need dropping in somewhere. These two groups I’ll try and do in the next couple of weeks while reading through.
Making changes is always a bit tricky. The text has a tendency to ‘set’ once you’ve read it a few times, it’s hard to bring yourself to break it all up again. Although you made all this stuff up, and can make any change you like, I find I get into a mindset of, ‘I can’t change that, that’s what happened.’ But it’s generally wise to carefully weigh every comment and address them wherever you can. Often you find your own way of addressing a comment which you’re much happier with than a suggestion. You can often kill several birds with one well-judged change. A few lines of careful dialogue can introduce backstory, add depth to secondary characters, deepen and complicate their relationships with the primary, change pace, add telling detail etc. etc. The more the whole story and the various issues to address are present in your mind, the more you’re submerged in the book, the better your chances of editing effectively.
There’ll be a quick pass through to attend to my editor’s detailed mark-up, which often means taking out phrases hear or there to move things along, or adding some small point of clarification. I personally hate tracking changes in Word, I find it really hard to properly read over and judge what things look like once the change is made, and the differences in font and format really freak me out, so I generally have two documents up together – one with the edits and one with my document as I’ve worked on it throughout. Finally another go over, probably with the text made really big on the screen, just to smooth things out and improve the writing where anything occurs. Big text, who can say, helps me to look at it differently sometimes, to consider the details.
It ain’t that long a book, so hopefully that’ll all be done over the next three weeks or so.