52 Weeks of Editing: Week 12—First Three Months Review

52 Weeks of Editing: Week 12—First Three Months Review
Photo by Wonderlane / Unsplash

I think it's time to do a review. This is the last Friday of March, so I've been doing this project for three whole months (give or take a few days). I figured it might be useful to look back over what I've done so far, and what I'd like to do next.

Also, you know it's Camp Nanowrimo starting in April? Yes. That's another reason to do some reviewing and planning, because I think I'm going to be in a position to actually do Camp Nano this April and maybe even finish it.

Now, this isn't going to be a typical review, because this has turned out to be a much more exploratory project than I expected. I see a lot of "Edit your novel in three steps!" seminars, workshops and talks. I've even been to some of these events.

None of them have come close to what's actually happened since I first started doing this. Two reasons for this, the first of which is that I'm coming back to something after a nineteen-year break.

The second is related to that big break, which is that pretty much everything about my relationship to writing and my relationship specifically to Amnar and what I want to write about has completely changed.

The TL;DR here is obvious: a lot happens in nineteen years. Boom.

This project isn't the same as if I put the manuscript in a drawer for a month then came back to it. There's some of that, because on a surface level I could do all the standard things you need to do when editing—checking plot points, clarifying theme, character inconsistencies and the like.

But in the huge span of nineteen years, so much has changed in my life, so coming back in my forties to something I wrote in my twenties is about more than just sitting down and doing surface level edits then putting it out into the world.

So, what has changed?

The very first thing is the biggest, but it's also the most recent discovery. I should probably write a longer blog about this because it deserves its own space. But my biggest shift has been my writing process, in terms of sitting down and putting words on a screen, the choices I make, and how I relate to my work when I'm in the middle of it.

I started actually writing a week or so ago. Not just going back to the original text and editing it, but writing something entirely new, using the most basic ideas from the original draft. I discovered two things.

1. I can't actually properly figure out everything that happens in the story until I start writing. I also can't tell what works and what doesn't until I've started.

2. My whole approach to writing has shifted. Although it's not new that I need to pants to some degree in order to keep developing and revising the story ideas I've got, other aspects have changed.

So, what have I done so far?

Since starting this project, I've made a number of huge changes:

I've reviewed the original story spine, separated out the first third of the original draft and focused in on that as the core of the new version. I've also developed Io as a character, very much on the basis of everything I've learnt about writing in the last nineteen years.

As part of working on the original series, I've also made a number of fundamental changes to the world of Amnar. This is mostly around the structure of the city of Amin Duum as it is in 4785 AA, which is when the events take place. I pulled apart all the weaknesses I could identify, polished a lot of the incoherences, and began to shift Io's position and backstory within this world.

Now, as I mentioned, I started writing again this month. That was a little unexpected. I'd thought I would run up a complete plot with all the major points in place, then transfer that into Plottr and my World Anvil chronicle. Once I'd done that, I thought I'd be ready to start.

Instead, what happened was more like this. I had an itch to write. This is always a great point to consider starting, although I remembered that I used to prefer to push back against that until it was really unbearable before I allowed myself to put words onto the screen.

I started writing, and within a short amount of time, I was able to produce most of the first chapter. However, in writing this chapter, I realised it wasn't where the story started. I needed to set the scene in more detail and provide some on-page threads that I couldn't set up in the first chapter I'd already written.

It wasn't until I started writing again that I began to have more ideas and to see the flaws in the ideas I did have.

Right now, I'm planning to use Camp Nanowrimo, which takes place in April, to carry on writing. So far, I've got most of the first chapter. From here on in, a lot of what I do here will be to write about what it's like effectively re-learning how to write fiction after a long break (the last time I completed a draft was in 2021), and how I'm applying what I've learnt recently about writing to develop my practice.

So, that's the first three months. It's not what I planned at all, but that seems to be the way life goes.