You think I’d be used to it by now, being three books in for HarperVoyager and multiple short stories (and longer fiction) for anthologies and Black Library. And you’d be wrong.
You can’t get used to editing, because every book’s different – well, duh – but also because you’re different as a writer each time the book comes back. First draft? Messy as hell, probably, and at least in my case (and the late Sir Terry Practchett’s – and you can bet your arse I’ll take that comparison any day) the first draft is me telling myself the story. Once I know the story, I rewrite it. And the very act of knowing the story changes me as a writer – how I approach aspects of the subject, which elements I want to tease out, what can be discarded.
So, second draft. Different writer. Anywhere from six to twelve months have passed.
Then it goes to my agent and maybe some beta readers and I usually start the first draft of the next book, or work on something else of whatever length. Catch up on fiction, non-fiction, TV, poetry, classics. Absorb culture. Change.
By the time my agent’s suggestions come back, I’m a different writer. And that difference gets poured into the book.
Then to my editor – either as an out on submission type thing, or as a contracted novel delivered to deadline (hopefully) thing. During the agonising wait for feedback, life continues to happen, as does the consumption of media and the refinement of the draft of the next book. Editorial feedback creates another learning curve, making me a slightly different writer again, better able to understand comments and implement changes and push back where necessary. Which in turn changes how I approach the draft of the next book.
And so it goes in an endless feedback loop, until the second draft my poor suffering beta readers and agent saw is refined and honed and tightened and deepened into a finished product, and I, hopefully, have done something similar in the way I approach writing, though always on a much smaller, less obvious scale. When I compare a first draft and a published book I can see huge, earth-shattering changes to plot and voice and description and characterisation. When I look at myself as a writer, it’s usually the same person looking back. Perhaps a touch more confident, or a little shocked at a realisation about how to write a certain thing, but usually still me. The process of change in the writer is far slower than the change seen from draft to book, but it still happens.
Would I write Godblind now? YES. Would it be the same book? NO. And that’s okay. That’s good, in fact. Because it means I’ve grown. I feel nothing but pride and accomplishment and deep fondness (and some regret and a lot of heartbreak) for my first trilogy, because it made me the writer who had the guts to pitch Songs of the Drowned to my agent. Which led to The Stone Knife, book one in the series, and a new publishing deal, and this cover:
All this is an extremely longwinded way to say that main edits for The Stone Knife are complete, and there’s just the copy edit and proofread to go. This book pushed me in a variety of new ways and new directions and threw up more challenges than I anticipated.
I’ve had a crisis of confidence practically every day since we sold the trilogy, but we’ve hit the point where I’m pretty sure it’s good, and it’s definitely as good as I can make it right now, at my current skill level. Because, as stated above, I’ve changed as a writer. I hope I’ll get better still, and that in three years I’ll look back and wonder how I’d rewrite it. But I’m pretty sure I’ll still be proud of it, whatever happens.
Currently reading: The Councilor, by EJ Beaton
Currently watching: Dark (Netflix), Nirvana in Fire
Currently listening: soundtrack to Rogue One