I started edits on January 10, finished them on January 30. In my defense, there were several things that delayed the completion of edits, which I’d wanted done by the 24th.
I was doing official Cry Wolf edits from January 22-26 for one. Good reason for delay. The other thing that extended the editing period was that I had to go through it three times instead of my customary two.
Hear me out. Usually I go through each chapter twice at a time, the first to do the big edits and the second to check the flow and make adjustments while I’m impatient and annoyed (yes, that’s actually the emotion I’m trying to evoke, because I’m more likely to kill my darlings in that state of mind). Well, after doing the edit, I cut my 141k words down to 134k, which is not an insignificant cut for more purposeful, non-NaNoWriMo writing. You’d think I was done, right?
Wrong. I learned upon checking submission guidelines that there is, in fact, a maximum word count (good to know, because you’ve probably noticed I tend to go long). I needed to cut it at least another 9k to get under that maximum. Ouch, I know. So I shed a few tears and pulled a few clumps of hair out, then made the hard decision to remove some of the “behind the curtain” short stories from the midst of the story. Any story that didn’t directly tie into Maya’s, my main character, had to go. I think in the end, it’s good that I made that determination to keep the whole novel about Maya rather than take too many detours. It made the novel purer, in that sense, where the short stories enhanced the main story rather than distracted too much from it.
I did have a few that I put in and took out and put in again, which meant they could go either way, but eventually I chiseled out a final set. I went from nine stories to five. Maybe it doesn’t sound like that big of a big cut, except I also cut two short stories I’d written on principle, one of which had been part of my Arcanium concept from the beginning – so losing them was particularly difficult, as though I was betraying my integrity or something.
I had to tell myself over and over that I can reuse them. A few novel ideas are knocking around in my head related to the Arcanium ‘verse. So there may be some additional novels in the future if Arcanium does well – and even if it doesn’t, the stories would be non-chronological, plotline-unrelated standalones that could appeal to a variety of audiences. Anyway, I could potentially use the cut short stories in future Arcanium novels. That made it easier to take them out. I’m not sacrificing my principles, just saving them for a more relevant inclusion.
I don’t kill my darlings easily, in case you couldn’t tell. I had genuine emotional turmoil over this, people.
So that brought me down to about 124k words after I’d finalized the short story cuts. That was under the maximum, but I’m someone who likes wiggle room. I had to go through the whole story again, feeling how the story differed after losing and moving some of the short stories, making more cuts. and adjusting for house style. I also have a tendency to repeat ideas in several ways, one right after the other. I did better catching that in the second half of the novel the first time around, but I’d left a few in the first half that I caught during the final pass.
There was also a part of a scene that I had to tone down. Neither a sex scene nor a horror scene (although I suspect I’m going to have to tone down one or more of the horror scenes, which makes me Not Happy, and I might fight for one of them). It’s a sexually charged scene, though, and it just toed over a line – removing that part of the scene didn’t compromise the spirit of the story or the scene itself, so I didn’t feel too bad about removing it.
Anyway, now I’m down to 121,416 words, which means I cut almost 20k words from the original manuscript in total. I still like Arcanium for what it is: erotic horror with elements of romance. Which is to say, it’s very fucked-up romance. How can it be anything else when the romantic interest is a villain. Shades of Actually Morally Gray, people. What I like about my characters, ethically questionable though they are, is that they’re never just evil. They do some things that are evil and some things that are good (sometimes very good), and most of them think they’re doing the right thing – sometimes even when they’re doing evil. Which just goes to show…twisted. Welcome to erotic horror, we like it morally ambiguous. We root for the villains and cheer for the slaughter.
Whether or not Arcanium is going to be snatched up is still up in the air. I honestly couldn’t tell you. Sure, I can explicitly bill it as horror and be clear about the warnings (oh my, so many warnings), but I’m still not sure if it’s just too dark, period. It’s definitely romance, but the people having the romance are, as I said, not the nicest people ever – although they’re probably some of the more interesting people you’ll meet. However, if no one else wants it, it’s definitely going on my self-publishing shelf after Wolf Girl (which I’m thinking of renaming to Tora). It’s good. It’s filthy and sweaty and bloody, and I like it.
It’s good to be finished with the personal edits, however. And to know the novel is better than it would have been if there wasn’t a maximum and I’d sent it out after the second pass instead of the third. It was a lot of words to keep track of. I think I needed that third pass anyway.
Next on the schedule: I was going to do Hallow’d Guests, but I’m still resentful of BBC’s Penny Dreadful, and I also haven’t reread all the gothic novels, so I’m going to save Hallow’d Guests for the month of October, when it will feel festive.
Instead I’m going to tackle a vampire story in the month February, which could end up being a series, a serial, a single novel with several book sections inside it – I don’t even know, and I won’t know until I get it all down and see how the lengths of each section compare.
It occurred to me that I’m writing a lot of vampire things lately. I think I’m getting them out of my system. First, there was Gravedigger. Next, the Written in Blood thingamabob. October, Hallow’d Guests. November, the last book in the Sanctuary trilogy, Call for Blood. November 2015, Nocturnal Creatures, my lesbian horror love story set in the same ‘verse as Stone & Chains. I promise I have other things on my mind than vampires. They’re just my first love, and I’ve been focusing on werewolves an awfully long time. :)
After I finish at least three parts of Written in Blood, I’ll edit Stone & Chains and be finished with erotica edits until significantly later in the year, hopefully sometime in the late summer or mid-autumn. Whew. I’m a busy woman in 2014, and that’s not even accounting for my utter failure to gauge how long stories are going to be.