The Editing Grind: Confronting Sirens and Uncertainty

I am currently about a third of the way through my second draft of ‘Into the West’, and let me tell you, editing sucks. It’s healthy, it’s important but it’s brutal. As I continue to plow forward very slowly – the goal was to have the second draft done by June – I am finding so many things that need to be changed. Character motivations, story structure, inciting incidents, even basic scene and story beats need significant changing. I have a lot of good stuff here, but it’s an uncut gem in just about every way. OK, it may be more of a uncut quartz. Or perhaps an uncut river stone. TBD on what kind of stone it is. It may just be a piece of asphalt trying to be a diamond. I think it would settle for quartz, because at least some people think they’re valuable, so that would be a win.

So far, I have nearly completely reworked my first act. My primary point of view’s path to the inciting incident has completely changed multiple times. Initially, his path to the Lewis and Clark-like expedition was being pursued by a criminal underworld, stumbling into a parade and being swept up in it. I liked the spontaneity of that scene, but Por was being pursued because he stole from a rich family. As I considered his character and motivation (money for tuition), it just didn’t make sense for him to steal. It’s not something he would choose to do. The second option was that he be shanghaied out of nowhere, and that just isn’t compelling or interesting to his character. So Por must now swallow his pride and ask for help in the form of funding from a Noble House, at the expense of serving as their House Scholar (essentially an indentured academic).

As I ended my first act, I realized that it may be superfluous. Do I need to show Por struggling with the decision to ask for help, or can it be relevant backstory later so we can get to the good stuff? I’ve intended to set the stage and the normal world my characters come from, but the story is really about the journey from Sidenia to Galatia and the conflict over the mountains, and that doesn’t begin until the second act. The magic, monsters and gods are all in Galatia for the time being, so let’s get there fast, not after 25,000 words (~100 pages).

You can see my uncertainty set in below, where my word count flattens. I began to question much of the structure of the novel, and whether or not it has the necessary components that I think it does.

To not mince words, April was a rough month in terms of word count. I like to keep meticulous data on my word count, which may or may not be beneficial, but it’s nice to track progress.

It’s not all bad. One of the characters I met in the late stages of draft one is now a point of view character, and will serve as an important catalyst for the original POVs. We are introduced to her in Galatia, where she serves as an Emissary for the King, and we get to see the big bad conflict of the story rear its ugly head, complete with lightning from clear skies and magic users, long before Por and Xero cross the Khulsan mountains.

One of the other challenges I’ve had the last month is that I got a bug in my ear on a new project. Like Odysseus’s sirens, it keeps drawing my creative attentions which keeps me from making progress. I’m still working on keeping myself strapped to the mast of Into the West though, because I feel that if I move on from the project the likelihood I ever go back is low. After quickly creating a simple plot for the story, I feel like it’s in a point I can leave it and jog back to Into the West.

As far as my endeavors into learning and compiling folklore for writing research, (Gaelic Folklore or Norse Mythology) I am currently working on an essay on Mongolian Folklore. This has led me to reading We Ride the Storm by Devin Madson, which is a lot of fun. In We Ride the Storm, there are 3 primary races of people Kisian (Japanese inspired culture), Chiltaens (Roman-inspired culture), and Levanti (Mongolian-inspired culture). So far (63% done at time of writing) it’s been a fun ride and definitely diverged from some expected fantasy tropes nicely. I recommend for anyone looking for a fresh voice in the fantasy genre.

If you made it this far, thanks for reading! Tell me if you did below or on twitter @larkinwriter, I am curious.

Best,

JL

Published by writerlarkin

Neuroscience and Research Project Manager background; deep passion for all things fantasy and writing and mythology!

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