I am determined to finish this edit in a week, and so, I’m up now, and I have a dizzying scene in my head, trying to weave in my ends (to use a knitting metaphor).

As you know, The Aldersgate is told in a multiple-POV. Every chapter, a different POV. This, of course, can’t last forever. I’m not as clever as George R. R. Martin, and I need to bring them together, and shift perspectives now and again within one chapter.

But boy, is this hard. I’m in the pre-climax. The chapter before the Big One, and all of these characters are coming together, and it’s like a thunderstorm; hot air, warm air, hail and rain. Toss in a gunfight between three factions with a fourth there for good measure, and you’ve made for one exciting little maesltrom.

I have geared bullets that bore holes into you, and keep boring, unless you get them out (and someone is currently working on getting said bullet out of someone elses’ thigh). I have blood and fear, I have betrayal and anger. I have a demon (of sorts) on the loose. I will not say more at the risk of being a total spoiler for those of you following along, but let’s say this… I’m juggling a lot of things. And some of them are knives, or fiery brands, or whatever dangerous things jugglers throw into the air. I started this chapter this morning, and I’m at the halfway point as we speak.

It’s 11:30, but I feel like I’ve got days of work before me if I ever want to get to sleep.

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.

When I started this blog, I had finished The Aldersgate. The idea was that I’d post the edited chapters, one at a time, and podcast them. Seems like a pretty straight-forward plan, right? The name made sense, the format and structure made sense.

It’s all fine and good, but I realize I painted myself into a funny little corner. As editing has progressed I realized my little novel isn’t so little, nor uncomplicated. The more I edit, the more I discover; the more I discover, the more I change; the more I change, the more the book looks less and less like the first version and more like something new entirely.

And since my pace isn’t anywhere near as fast as I thought it’d be, this blog has become, ultimately, a writer’s blog about a host of subjects, from the process of writing, to trends in steampunk writing and culture, to music and history, to fantasy writing and science fiction.

Ultimately I realize I made a blog for a book, when I should have made a blog for myself as a writer. I suppose in a way it’s comfortable to hide behind something, like a book–but eventually personality wins out. So I’m contemplating renaming the site (not the address, as that’s impossible) and rethinking my approach a little more. The Aldersgate is a well-intended endeavor and, I keep telling myself any, a worthy one. But the more I edit and rewrite, the more I want to challenge myself and get it right. It’s a big story–a huge story, the largest and most ambitious I’ve ever tried to tell. And I don’t want to risk the telling by taking shortcuts.

So, suffice it to say, this blog jumped the gun a bit. Although, in my defense, when I sat down to serialize the novel I really did think it was 90% there. I just found out it was really closer to, oh, 20%. I’ve never been good at math.

To all the readers and friends I’ve made in the last few months, thank you. I’m rapidly approaching 10,000 views (?!?) and am ever amazed and inspired by the people I’ve come to know through this blog. Expect lots more from me as the months pass into the next year, and prepare yourself for new adventures!

Hard drive crashes are not fun. Even if you’ve backed up your work, and maintain the bulk of your information, one lapse (say about six days) can cost you. When my HD choked, it was in the midst of a good run of writing and editing, in which I’d changed around a great deal and put about 10,000 new words on paper. As I mentioned before, this work was wiped from the face of the planet.

When bad things happen like that, friends are quick to reach out and tell you it’s probably for the best, and that what you’ll write next will be even better than before. That sort of advice, while always well intended, often feels like a kick in the gut.

As grumpy as I was to lose so much of Brick’s narrative, my well-meaning friends were, actually, quite right.

I’ve finished editing Brick’s narrative through to the last 1/4 of the book, up until the point where his narrative starts intertwining more heavily with others and I have to wait.

And oddly enough (or not oddly, depending on how you look at it) losing all that work on Brick actually made me examine him more closely, to ask some really difficult questions. I thought I knew Brick, I really did. But after rewriting and tightening things up, I’ve realized there were a great deal of things that even through the first draft I hadn’t realized about him. It’s that extra layer of complexity that not only makes for a better story, but a more believable hero.

Coupled with the timing of Villain Month, this edit also happened to be Sir Gregory Ander’s (or just Ander as he’s referred to mostly) real entrance into the narrative. Now here’s a surprise. Even though I was pretty happy with his profiles (see the posts here) he’s turned out to be very different even than that. I’ve promoted him from minor villain in the first draft to major antagonist in the edit, and wow. He’s really taken on a life of his own.

My rambling point is that I’m very happy with the writing of the last few days. I’ve been putting my head down, as it were, and really concentrating on telling a good story.

I guess the moral of the story is to try and not let things get to you. Not to get all Pollyanna on you, but seriously: bad things happen, to everyone. And sure, a hard drive crash is worse for a writer in some ways than just about any other sort of person. You’re allowed a sulking time, but once it’s over: just get over it.

And just because it’s fun, here are five things I didn’t expect editing Brick’s narrative:

  • The appearance of codes and ciphers
  • The loss of appendages
  • A berserker knight
  • Major confessions and admissions of guilt
  • Strange alliances

A bit of an excerpt after the cut from Chapter Seventeen: The Merry Gentleman. Brick’s been recaptured by the Order of the Oak, and has been stowed away, tied up, in the corner of a stable stall for the better part of two days. Sir Ander finally pays him a visit and tries to make a deal with him.