Editing one book while writing the first draft of the sequel is as close as I will ever come to time travel.
My first book, Empire of Dust, is due out from DAW on November 4th and while waiting for editorial comments I’ve been working on the first draft of the second novel, Crossways. I put my main characters, Cara Carlinni and Reska (Ben) Benjamin, through hell in Empire and now in Crossways I’m dumping problems on them from loose ends deliberately left hanging. They faced up to the primary problem, but now the secondary one is about to turn round and bite them. What starts out as a search for survivors is about to turn into a battle for survival.
I confess that I am neither a plotter nor a pantser, but a mixture of both. A plotter has the whole book worked out before the actual writing commences and then she writes to the plan. A pantser works by the seat of her pants, writing to see what happens next. I have a vague outline. I know the beginning and I have a fair idea of the end, but a lot of the detail in the middle is hazy. Essentially all I have on paper is the one page synopsis that I sent to my publisher and there’s not so much detail in that.
The editing process basically goes like this…
I deliver my best version of the book, i.e. one that I’ve written, polished, edited, altered and polished again. My editor reads it and we have a long conversation. Had I thought about doing this? What about that? What’s the background to this? What’s Ben’s motivation for doing that particular thing at that particular time? How does Cara figure out this? We throw ideas back and forth and I go away to make alterations and (as it turns out in this particular instance) a load of additions. Then I send the edited version in and the next editorial conversation is more finely tuned. I’m still not a hundred percent sure of the ending, you need to look at this. If that character is going to come to the fore in the second book you definitely need to deepen her character in the first.
You get the idea.
While developing characters and ideas for the second book I’ve been able to jump back into the first book and retrofit as needed. Also some of the suggested editorial changes in the first book have had the butterfly wing effect and caused tsunamis in the second book.
On Tuesday, however, I delivered the final edit to my publisher. That means the first book is locked down tight. There’s another edit stage to come, but that’s the copy edit, checking for things out of order, spelling mistakes, grammar, typos, clunky sentences. The option to insert scenes, change things round and add or remove chunks is now gone.
In other words my time machine, hitherto used freely to travel between what’s happening in the now of my second book and the then of my first book, has been taken away, locked in the basement and powered down. From this point forward, whatever happens in the second book has to grow out of whatever has already happened in the first one.