Sunday, September 2, 2007

Editing the Beast: The Hellacious Process Begins

Thieves (still hate the title) is seven years old. I began it when I was seventeen, the summer after my junior year of high school. I began it after setting aside a four-year project of mine that I finally decided was too complicated for me to tackle at my age and writing level. Thieves started out as what I thought was going to be a short story, or at least short-ish novella, called Shadownight. I wrote the first chapter, involving a thief in a faraway land trying to steal something, nearly getting caught, and ultimately plunging into a rock-ridden river, which should have effectively ended her thieving career. She, however, had the audacity to live.

A few months later, in winter, I was struck with another idea. I saw a girl who was being forced to be a thief who really didn't want to be a thief. But she didn't have much of a choice. She looked like her mother, almost a copy, and her mother was infamous. The Queen of Thieves. The daughter was therefore derisively referred to as the Princess of Thieves, and so her story was named.

It seems painfully obvious now, but at the time, beyond the two girls being thieves, I didn't think the stories were related. Then I went to Canada and had a revelation. These two girls were living in the same land. At the same time.

And I suddenly had a problem. I'd dropped my previous project, which also, ironically, still only has a working title (Bonded by Blood. Don't ask) and also, even more unbelievably, was crafted from three disparate plots I hadn't envisioned intertwining and suddenly did. And wouldn't you know, Thieves picked up a third plotline as well, one of my one-page wonders that I started and let go by the wayside. But I'd dropped BBB because it was so complex, and was showing signs of sequels. Lots of them. Wheel of Time (otherwise known as Waste of Time) sequel potential. I wanted to tackle something mangeable, in my humble opinion, for a seventeen-year-old soon-to-be college-bound not-going-to-have-a-lot-of-time-on-our-hands sort of person. And damned if I didn't stumble myself into another epic, at the worst possible time of my life. I didn't have the discipline. I didn't have the time. Most importantly, as the novel kept expanding in bits and pieces, years were passing, and I was getting older, and so was my writing. My life was changing a lot, my writing got terrifyingly worse, then better, and finally hit polished, though I'm still hoping to improve a lot before I cock up my heels and die. And this all happened in this one book. By rights, this should be my "transition novel" and I should put it in a drawer somewhere and never look at it again.

But you see, people like it. That's the trouble. Despite its rampant misuse of adjectives, its inconsistant magic system, it's over- and under-dramitization of events, its white-space action and overboard descriptions, unclear political structure, over-telling, and completely unbelievable sex scenes, I get asked more often about the status of Thieves than about anything else I've ever done. Plus the characters stubbornly refuse to go quietly into the night, and vampire lit. suddenly isn't sellable, according to several agents.

So, I've begun work, serious work, on Thieves again. I haven't edited it this seriously since my senior year of high school. And I have to give silent thanks for the intervening years, because I've finally become capable of editing, even my own work, to some degree. But this is going to be a long haul. I only hope on the other side, it will be worth it, and that this book isn't lying again (or rather the character union isn't lying again) and there really is just the one sequel and then there will be blessed peace. And who knows? Maybe it'll sell!