A Blank Sheet
Yesterday, I completed my first, serious edit of Wizard Unleashed, Witchy World Book 3. In the lifecycle of bringing a story from inception to delivery, this is the second most critical milestone in the project’s life (first being when I release to publishing). At this point, I’ve dreamed all that I will dream about the story, fought with the characters, torn out the junk and simplified my ramblings. For me this IS the product I’m trying to produce. It turns out, I’m not a fantastic editor. It’s not that I have poor grammar, spelling, or really any big problem, it’s just that I prefer the story to the mechanics. And some of my readers would be fine with what I’ve produced after this first edit. Fortunately, I have people who are really good at the process of editing. They excel at recognizing repeated words, disconnected idioms, unnecessary that’s, buts, actuallys, a littles, pretty, a bit, up, and a whole list of words and phrases I pummel the discriminating mind with.
But I’m getting away from the purpose of the post a little(strikethroughs are to show my editors that I actually get rid of things before they see it). The fact is, it is at this very moment, that I’m ready to start working on the next thing. It’s a moment both terrifying and exhilarating. A blank page stares at me and I see endless possibilities. The decisions I make in those first moments, when I set that first scene will shape the entire story. There’s a lot that goes into that first paragraph and scene. I need to telegraph some big ideas, like what’s driving our characters forward and where is the conflict coming from. It’s a big responsibility. The fun part is I get to expose a new bad guy. Or as it turns out in this next Privateer Tales a bad-girl. I’ve been sitting on this bad-girl for a while. I read somewhere, that people are tired of bad girls that are always ex-hookers and had a weakness because they really wanted to be nice or just generally weren’t as horrible as the average bad-guy. Tell that to Belvakuski. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t care what her gender is.
Aside from exploring my antagonist, the blank sheet gives me an opportunity to re-center the series. Necessarily, as I write a story, we end up chasing down some rabbit holes. At the end of every story, we’ve never make it back to neutral. Turns out, that’s something I enjoy about writing a series. I know over my life, I’ve both changed a lot and I’ve stayed the same. If you knew me as a fourteen-year-old and know me now, you’d find I have a lot of attributes that haven’t changed, some for the good and others not as much. On the other hand, I’m also much different. I’ve matured, explored a much larger portion of the world and I’ve been shaped by my experiences and the people I’ve been around. Same too is true of our characters. It’s important to me that I think about how they are progressing in their lives. The brashness of youth is often tempered by experience. The rough edges of a personality are smoothed by misunderstandings and conflict, just as new burs are developed. Even more, the people around our hero also need to mature and move forward in their lives. Sometimes, this leads them out of our story, or taking a different position.
On the negative side, this is also the point where I experience the most self-doubt. I question if I’ve lost that special something that people identify with. Do people really care to see the story line continue? Should I be working on something else? Show me a writer who doesn’t have self-doubt and I’ll show you someone who is not being honest with themselves or with you. Putting yourself out there is hard and people go out of their way to criticize. It has an effect that is prominent when staring at that blank page. Do I give in and believe the few detractors? Or, do I push it aside and plow ahead? Turns out, I have an active base of very positive readers. I receive one negative comment to twenty or thirty positive. It’s not lost on me that I’d allow that 3-4% impact me, but I think it’s human nature. We highlight the negative and downplay the positive.
This morning, I woke up at 4:45am. The house was quiet and I tried to go back to sleep. I knew I had a blank sheet of paper loaded up onto my word processor. My mind wandered to a big bold galaxy that is begging to be explored. As I stared at the ceiling, I started thinking about pirates, corrupt governments and bullies that all need being put in their place. Finally, I just gave up on the notion of sleep. The pull of that blank sheet of paper was too much. And that’s how another story entirely is started.