Podcasting has brought about a very intriguing element to my editing process. Yes, I understand that not every chapter I read aloud is picture-perfect; occasionally I read a phrase, grimace through it, and keep going. I don’t have an official editor, and I know the magic they can perform on a novel. My biggest goal is just to tell the story, and tell the story right.

But what’s been really intriguing for me is not actually doing the readings, but listening to my own stuff afterward. I always listen to the podcast before I upload it and let it go live, and it has to pass my own test first. #9 was great–I really felt it moved well, was paced well, and entertaining.

That said, I’ve been working on a chapter that, until a few days ago, I thought was solid. I thought the pacing was good, the action exciting, the dialogue and secrets and mysteries engaging.

Then I listened to it.

And now, I’m not sure the chapter even needs to be there at all.

Or at least, part of me says that. The other part of me says, “Finish the damned edit, and then look back.” But that’s the problem: I’ve got to read this chapter for the podcast. What happens is important, though it could (honestly) be relegated to a short flashback/paragraph of explanation. So do I fix it now, and read the next chapter (one of the benefits of writing a multi-POV is that I can mess with chapter order if I want to)? Or, do I read it as is, with the caveat that it’s likely not going to appear in the final version? But do I risk the readers/listeners losing track of the POV, Cora’s, by having the story told in another POV (which will happen, if I do it the other way)… or… baaaah.

Fecked if I know, as Sir Din might say.

Suffice it to say Podcast #10 might take a little longer than anticipated to get to your ears. I’m working on it. I’m honestly leaning toward leaving it be, at the moment, and letting people decide. As I head into the center of the book, my standards are getting a lot more strict, I suppose.

Din lowered her voice, “You’ve got to understand me, Brickley,” she said. “These men and women—they are mine. I have shaped them, I have trained them. One loose cog in the mechanism, and people die. We all go through hardships—we all lose people, and feel our hearts squeezed to the point of despair over it. But we move on. We have to. Because we are the Order of the Asp—and by gods, if we don’t do our job, no one else will. And the world would be a much darker place.”

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.

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