I have yet to read Joe Abercrombie’s First Law Trilogy, but I am quite enthralled by his blog. He’s witty, funny, and certainly helpful for those of us slogging through the novel process. His most recent post is about editing, and he hit it so spot on I started laughing (a little maniacally, I admit) while reading it. I’m glad to know that other people out there, especially those writing in fantasy and multi-POV styles, experience the same kind of borderline insanity that I do.

Currently, I’m in stage four, according to Joe:

4. Character Pass. And now we come to the meat of the exercise. You have to imagine me being interviewed, probably on a darkened stage with a single spotlight, in a black leather armchair like Mastermind, by Melvyn Bragg, possibly? I’m wearing a corduroy suit and a thoughtful yet slightly sour expression like I just tasted a fine wine and detected the slightest aroma of piss about it. And I say something like, “well, you understand, Melvyn, this is when I take on the mantles of my various characters, this is when I absorb them into my id. This is when I become them … Or do they become me?” (humbly apologetic smile, round of applause from the sycophantic audience, you get the idea). Basically I try and get as complete a sense of each point of view character as possible in mind, often taking one particular chapter that worked particularly well as a model. Then I spend a few days going through every chapter and part of chapter from their point of view trying to get as strong a sense of that character down on the page. Usually involves some cutting down, some tinkering with the prose style to try and get it consistent across every appearance of that character, some work on the dialogue to get the voice right, some application of clever tricks and catch-phrases, or repeating constructions, and so forth.

Also during this phase, and particularly with the three more important characters, I’ll be trying to draw out some of the theme relating to that character a bit more strongly, especially early on when I wasn’t (ahem) totally sure what their themes would, like, be. I will be trying to sketch their arcs more distinctly. Trying to boil them down to a more decisive essence of person. Melvyn. Whoever said I was pretentious? I’m just like any other master craftsman or great artist at work…

When this pass is done the book should hopefully be coming together nicely.

I’m currently on Chapter Eighteen, approximately 100,450 words in to the final book (the original was 32 chapters I think, so I’m actually cutting a few, and axed two POVs…). All the “finished” chapters are lined up so pretty in Scrivener, and it makes me feel fulfilled and happy. For a moment anyway. Until the real editing starts, I suppose.

The Write StuffI’ve been wondering, a great deal actually, about Real Authors. These people who, in spite of the statistics and naysayers, somehow manage to make a great living out of the crazy ideas that come to their heads.

Now, collectively, there is no way to judge this bunch. At the risk of sounding like a complete snob, I’m not going to illustrate my opinion on some of our best selling authors, because that’s not nice. It sounds a bit too much like sour grapes, and that’s not my point.

I guess, what I’m trying to say (rather circuitously, I realize) is that, well, it happens to people. People find an audience. Whether it’s rehashing the same mystery story over and over again, resurrecting medieval legends, or crafting truly original and beautiful works–people still read. We, as human beings, thirst for stories. We want to know characters; we revel in their joys, we despair with their defeats. We need narrative, for–even as unlike it may be to our own lives–it reminds us of why we are.

And me, what do I have to prove? Nothing, really. I certainly don’t feel like writing is something I Must Do To Show Everyone. It’s just the Thing I Do. I fall asleep at night pondering details of a world that doesn’t, to my immediate knowledge, exist (other than in my own gray matter). Scenes and encounters and characters flash before me… and why? What will it matter, when all is said and done? What if no one likes it? What if I’m not any good?

I guess, when it comes down to it, I hope people like it; but at this point, I could no more stop writing stories than I could brushing my teeth every morning and night.

Were I a bard in a remote village, I’d gather the children (and other more imaginative folks) and tell them stories, too. And when my son is old enough to appreciate a good story, I hope, at very least, that I can kindle a love of story in him. Because that, in all my childhood, was the single greatest gift I ever was given–a sort of Promethean spark, as it were…

In the end, I just want to tell a good story.

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