This week was a flurry of work as I did the final pass of edits on my latest novel before getting it to my editor. For me, editing is always the most difficult part of the writing process because it is when you have to look at your work with a dispassionate eye and be brutally honest about it. Like a number of other authors I know, once I finish this step in the process, I am convinced that this is the worst thing I have ever written and my editor has to threaten to come beat me just to get me to send it to her. That’s been especially true with this particular project.
I have joked with my fellow Twisted Writers, and others, that I’ve never met a genre I didn’t like. So far, I have published novels that run the gamut from romantic suspense to military science fiction/space opera to urban fantasy police procedurals to paranormal romance. If I were to pull out all the different things I’ve written over the years and have tossed under the bed and into the back of the closet, there would be mysteries and even a western. I remember doing what would be called fanfic today of a Terry Brooks novel which was, iirc, a take off on Lord of the Rings. But I had never before written traditional fantasy with an eye to publishing it.
Nor had I planned to.
But my muse is a crafty witch (yes, yes, I used a different word but I’m trying to be nice here) and an evil one as well. When I should have been focusing on getting the next urban fantasy novel, Nocturnal Challenge, written, Myrtle the Muse hit me over the head with a true fantasy novel, Sword of Arelion. A mix of sword & sorcery and heroic fantasy, Myrtle the Muse reminded me of a “book” I wrote years and years ago, long before I was doing this for a living, and said that was the one I needed to write now.
To give you an idea how long ago it had been since I had last thought about the book, it was on floppy discs, or so I thought. I knew I didn’t have it on any of my current backups and they go through a series of at least five different laptops and desktop units. (Well, I did have the first two chapters in an old rtf file but that was all.) So, I had to dig up an external floppy disk reader and go through the few disks I still had. Nope, not there. The dratted thing was on 3″ disks from my first “computer”, an old Amstrad unit. Sooo…, other than a few pages here and there that I found in the dreck pile under the bed, I had nothing to go by other than memory.
Which was probably a very good thing. After seeing the quality — or lack thereof — of my work back then, I probably would have run into the night screaming.
So, cocky that I had the answer to Myrtle the Muse, I told her I couldn’t write the fantasy. I had three other novels I needed to push out before the end of the year. I didn’t really remember everything that happened in the novel and, without the earlier version, I simply didn’t have the time or the desire to try to recreate it. So, go get a cuppa and let me get back to Nocturnal Challenge.
Except Myrtle the Muse is a cantankerous witch as well. She crossed her arms, shook her head and grinned. Nope. She wasn’t going to change her mind and I had to obey. After all, I am just the write. She is the muse and that means I have to do what she says. When I tried to get stubborn, she promised me scotch and chocolate if I did as she said. When I refused to fall for that — and it is very hard to turn down good scotch and chocolate — she started playing dirty. She wouldn’t let any of my other work come through.
I finally gave up and wrote the book. And, as my first readers and editor will tell you, I have whined and whinged and complained all along the way. Well, I think there was one night I kind of sort of liked it. But I think I was feverish that night. Now I’m waiting, scared to death, to hear what I figure is the inevitable — that the book sucks eggs. The rational part of me says it probably doesn’t but the fear is there.
What will I do if I do find out my fears are true? Well, after threatening a bonfire — which used to be what I did with something I wrote and then decided I didn’t like — I will have to sit down and see if the thing is salvageable. If it is, I will work on it and try to bring it up to the standard it needs to be to be released out into the public. If it isn’t, I will have to look at the reasons why and use this as a learning lesson.
Because writing is a craft we are always learning and always honing. If any of us ever get to the point where we think we have nothing else to learn, then it is time to walk away and find something else to do.
Pardon me now while I hide under the sink and braid my hair. Oh, and if anyone has an answer for why Myrtle the Muse is such an evil creature, please let me know. Maybe I can use it to deter her the next time she decides I need to write something I’ve never done before. At least I’ve got a really nifty cover thanks to mentor and friend, Sarah A. Hoyt and Dollarphotoclub.com