Editing Interiority

I just finished an unplanned—and hopefully final—editorial pass on A Sea Sought in Song. The extent to which I can still make revisions even after niggling over every last sentence for the past decade never ceases to amaze me. But at least the process is getting more efficient. In contrast to my last pass, which comprised months’ worth of rewriting, this one progressed swiftly. Perhaps the momentum was due to time’s emotional distancing, perhaps to a rereading speed that facilitated standardization, or perhaps to the deeper perspective bestowed by Book Two’s 44,000 words. Whatever the impetus, the result was that the manuscript’s word count ended up increasing by a thousand. A Sea Sought in Song now clocks in at a majestic 190,000 words, which means it’s still shorter than the first fantasy novels published by Brandon Sanderson, Tad Williams, and Patrick Rothfuss.

Revision, for me, usually entails lengthening the manuscript. My initial drafts tend to be light on interiority. I was trained to write screenplays, which cannot rely on the thoughts of characters. Film is a visual medium, and the narratives it presents to our eye must be depicted visually. “Show don’t tell,” etc. It’s the rare film indeed that can get away with incessant voiceover narration. So my description—at least initially—tends to be heavy on the physical and light on the psychological. I’ll tell you what a character’s eyebrow does, but won’t bother spelling out the thought that’s found expression on his or her face. This works to a certain degree, but it isn’t writing to the strength of the medium. So when I go back through a passage, I usually end up fleshing out the lives of my character’s minds.

I enjoy this process. It’s an incremental sidling-up that draws me ever closer to the core of my characters’ being. In a way, it feels like the development of real-life relationships.

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