It probably shouldn’t take 140,000 words and a persistent series of editorial red marks to realize the book isn’t anywhere near ready.
But it did.
I went into the editor experience knowing I needed help. Knowing there’s something just not quite ready about the book and it needed a good working over from a third party.
I selected a writers’ group friend and English professor who probably reads enough of other people’s poorly written crap to wade through mine with less disgust than a professional editor might show.
I was wrong. There was plenty of disgust.
“Lots of descriptions of people smoking in this book.”
“These conversations are getting tedious. You need more action.”
“Nothing really happens in this scene. How is this contributing to the plot?”
I know the book is complex. It’s got vampires which requires world building and time travel which requires methodology. It’s got a GenX vampire which requires moral compass orientation and Lord Byron which requires historical research and a new take on an old character.
The frame of the story is the GenX narrator telling a story to Lord Byron and the verb tense shifts between the scene in which the story is being told and the story itself.
It’s a lot. I know.
Words that come to mind are: ambitious, over reaching, trying too hard, and “Lord Byron and vampires? It’s been done.” (said with the dismissive disdain of someone who’d rather read anything else but this)
The usual requirements of a novel still hold true: engaging first 10 pages, carefully included exposition, enough action to keep the pace moving, dialogue that’s realistic and purpose driven, a character we give a damn about telling the story.
This is version seven and I’m still asking each scene if it has the usual requirements. Let alone all the richness and layers my ambition is dictating.
And frustration is mounting. Why can’t I get it right? Why can’t I make it work? Am I asking for too much? Is there a magical tool out there that can help me properly adjust this 140,000 word monstrosity into a best seller?
This weekend I took the printed V7 to the beach for a writing retreat. I also took pencils and sticky notes. I fully expected to architect my way through this version and emerge on the other side ready for a comprehensive re-write. Something that meets my expectations.
I’m not starting from scratch which is the only encouraging thing. Because this week it’s become evident I succeeded in creating Anne Lamott’s shitty first draft and this is my seventh try.