Revision wrap-up

Toward the end of summer in 2017, we took a short trip into the nearby wilderness and delved into the only old growth forest remaining in western Tennessee. It was beautiful, and one of the most inspiring places I’ve been, though we haven’t been back. Now would be a good time to rectify that, I suppose, before it gets too hot.

Overton forestI came across the pictures from that expedition while attempting to free up some space on my hard drive. I shared this one photo from the expedition on my blog, here, a few months after it happened. I probably should have written about it; the dense growth reminded me of the fantasy world in my head. I didn’t take many photos, and most of the few I have are similar attempts at getting one specific shot.

The mile-long trek we took was beautiful, a well-beaten path winding through the forest. It sometimes twisted close to itself, but the growth was so dense we couldn’t see the nearby path through the trees.

It was peaceful. Tranquil. Restful. And it felt like I’d been there before, though I hadn’t–and have never been again.

That’s probably what writing a story should be like. Yeah, I figured after a few paragraphs of rambling about forests, you were probably starting to wonder what that had to do with books, or my writing projects, or the novel revision process, like the title says. That’s the thing, though. Writing books should feel fresh, exciting, inspiring, encouraging. It’s hard, too, but so is a mile-long trek through a dense forest in late August during 105-degree weather with 90% humidity. And the mosquitoes. Oh my goodness, the mosquitoes.

ThornsRevising Serpent’s Tears has been most like the sweat-and-mosquitoes part of the slog. And unlike the forest, I’d been there before–I’d been there quite often. It was my tenth time writing this story and while I hope it’s done, I still have a lot of doubts. After writing a few books, I know that’s normal, but it doesn’t make it easier. It was painful work. It was a struggle. The difficulty will linger.

But the story grew a lot, and I hope for the better. I got to spend more time on my world building, more time on developing my characters, more time on making everything more. I streamlined a lot. I cut a lot of words. I reworked a number of long sections from the ground up. I put back pieces I’d cut from the very first draft of the story, back when I’d been afraid of letting the story be long. I don’t have the initial word count I started from, exactly, but I do know it was a bit over 89,000 words.  After the heavy revisions and rewrites and restored content, the book is finished at 115,000 words. It grew by almost a quarter, and I hope that was for the better.

The hardest part of the revisions was the way it made me doubt the first book, too. There’s a part toward the end that keeps nagging at the back of my mind–maybe I should change it–but I’m trying hard to silence that whisper, because I need to learn to let go. I’ll send it off for editing. Then I’ll ask my editor what she thinks I should do. It may not need the addition I think it does. It may be fine as-is. But I can’t continue to let myself stress and fret over something I’ve already devoted 18 years of my life to creating. At some point, it’s the best I can do. Maybe not the best I’ll ever be able to do, maybe not the best I wanted to do, but it’s there, complete, and I need to move on.

So as I mentioned previously, I’m taking a break from that series to refresh my mindset and learn a little more by drafting a new story from scratch. That’s still on my list of things to talk about, but I’ll get to that eventually. While I work on writing that novella, I’m trying to decide what to do with the next book in the series that’s up for revision. I had planned for Serpent’s Wake to be split in half like the other three, but I need to consider that carefully to make sure it’s what’s best for the series overall.

That’s it for now, though. Here’s another picture of some trees.

Overton forest

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