I have been working on revising my very ancient trilogy, "Fate's Arrow", which it looks like will be published as six books instead of three. Written almost 25 years ago when I was happily learning my trade, they are really, REALLY long in their raw form, the kind of books that pull you in and leave you walking around for days thinking you're still in that world. They are very long, politically complex tales in a huge story arc that still takes less than three years of subjective time to complete. And, uh, I took 110 thousand words out of the first one before I subbed it. Heh. Long indeed.
My goal back then was to create a new world from the wreckage of an old one: an Earth colony that had been overrun by zealots worshiping a new god (think Mohammed forcibly converting the Middle East back when). Rebellion inevitably followed, and societal fracture directly thereafter. Earth is forgotten but not the stars, because remnants of Founder tech are everywhere--just not usable anymore. And in the chaos, all sorts of things shifted, from language to mores to customs of every sort. That was the world I wanted to--and did--create.
My editor admits it is an intense read, total immersion in this world. But, judging from the moans of anguish (I've yet to see the edits), all the rewriting I did over the years has left the poor reader floundering in new terms, names, and concepts. Ergo, I foresee much work to bring back in all the bits I axed in an attempt to bring the word count down to something publishable even in two volumes.
It is a reminder--and a grateful one, I might add--that the books we see on the shelves, that we so easily sink into and enjoy, did not start out as such seamless reads. Rare is the author who can get a rough draft published. Just about everybody needs editing, which is why so many self-published tomes are so bad, and so rightfully panned. We can't see our own mistakes. We can't see when we know the world so well that what lands on the page is only half of what is in our heads--and not the most essential half the reader needs to know. That takes other eyes: a workshop or an editor who knows what she's doing. Assuming your work makes senses is a big assumption. And sometimes, a fatal one with regard to sales, your reputation as an author, and any chance of developing a fan base of people who love your work.
I do feel very sorry for my editor for having been the one to have to wade through this heavily revised, overhauled, rewritten, umpty-umpth draft. I promise it is a good book under the new stuff I bury the reader in. My trick now is to retain the best, let the little stuff go, and keep the flavor I want without losing my readers. Because it IS a good book, and the next two (or four) in the series are even better. I love these characters. They taught me to write. And I so want to bring them to readers who will appreciate them--all those fans of high fantasy, SF, and odd mixtures of the two. And the cover! You should see the concept art Bill Warren is coming up with. I am in awe.
Don't sweat the small stuff. That's what one of my old bosses used to say, and he was right. Change a name from something complicated to something a reader can remember? Sure. Lose a bit of linguistic shift if it doesn't come trippingly off the tongue? Ok, I can do that. Remove the heart of the story and what I wanted to say? Nope. That's where I push back. Fortunately, I've never been asked to do that. Irene Radford is a terrific editor, and I look forward to seeing what she has to say, even though, deep down, I also dread it. It may hurt. But I know I'll get a better book out of it.
And little Ms. Perfectionist here wants the best book I can create. Isn't that what it's all about?
The Mask of God is scheduled to be out this fall. I'm not sure exactly when or I'd give you a date to watch for. I daresay it will depend in part on how much rework is required. But I look forward to the challenge!