I was down yesterday when I began my writing and editing session. I’m still editing Book Five in the Incomplete States series, An Undying Quest. Halfway through it, I was bummed about what I was reading. I thought, man, I have some work ahead of me to fix these issues.
I didn’t feel like addressing those issues, so I made notes, and continued editing, working on subsequent chapters. When I did, I discovered that those chapters addressed the holes and plot issues, and fixed them.
I was friggin’ astonished. Thinking back to then, I remembering writing and arranging the chapters. I hadn’t realized I’d done this. By that, I mean, I knew that the story went sideways at that point. I knew it as a deliberate choice. I didn’t appreciate how sideways it went. I do remember thinking hard about it, recalling Part One of The Sound and the Fury (Faulkner, 1929), a book that I strongly admire. Back when I first read that novel in sixth grade, I remember gritting my teeth and thinking, “WTF? This is crazy.” Finishing Part One was challenging. But everything is illuminated (sorry, Foer) with the subsequent parts. So I thought, be brave. Do it.
Now, after editing it, once I grit my teeth through the doubted chapters, the rest are magically explained. It comes together.
It’s not the first time I’ve done something like this. A friend, after reading one of my novels, said that he’d created a list of questions about things that bothered and confused him, then he said, “I was amazed because you brought it all together.” I loved that feedback.
So, I’m hanging with it as written. We’ll see if it makes publication, or what changes come about from outside feedback.
Meanwhile, it’s a powerful reminder that when editing, go through the whole damn manuscript before addressing any major changes. I specifically decided to edit the entire series before having any of them edited or read by another because the series is organic. Events opening in the first chapters of the first book are resumed in subsequent chapters and books. Changing one means hunting down and addressing those changes in other chapters and books. It has multiple points of views and storylines. It’s a complicated exploration. Events and decisions are rarely fully explained, as I like inviting readers to take the information and conceive the answers.
The series was originally conceived as a single, fat novel. I felt breaking it apart into eras of growing awareness and development lends itself to telling the story. I was also aware of my wife and her friends’ complaints about holding up large books to read, yes, even in this era of digital publishing.
Time to write and edit like crazy, at least one more time.