|"I may need an editor for this."|
From "Aideen's Story" in The Shadow Well.
There is a large labyrinth I have been walking through for many years now. For a while, it stood on a hill quite some ways away from me. But I finally entered it, mapped it, and moved into it.
I am now in the process of "setting up home" and I am speaking of The Shadow Well: the next novel in my Hagen chronicles. It takes place largely at a stately home called The Heusermarck where I was employed for some time.
A novel is much like a house. Is it a new one? Old houses can be new stories, and of course new houses may be old ones. This insufferable metaphor could be from the perspective of a reader, but I am talking about writing novels.
Finishing a novel feels much like moving into a house. I do not mean the first draft. There is a lot of ink, both digital and physical spent on the discussion of actually writing down the words. I could post another entire essay about choosing which house, hardwoods or not, neighborhoods, and the investment aspects of a property.
I will not do that. I'm simply talking about this phase, which is actually moving in.
When the first draft of The Shadow Well lay on my desk, it felt like I had moved into a mess. And of course how much of our messes do we bring with us? In the rush to move we throw everything into boxes. Granted, yes, there are conscientious disciplined novelists who actually pack sensibly, and discard unnecessary items before they move. I am not one of them.
I have been throwing out things this whole time. Some of these phrases and passages, once so meaningful, are now in the way. Karl Yangler's grand walk through Hagen? It's a love letter to the City of my Birth, but reading someone else's epic love letters can get rather boring.
And another thing to do is remodeling, and for both getting rid of detritus, specifying demolition, and then guidance in building newer structures it's best to hire a professional to do this.
I am speaking of editors, of course. Some writers may not desire or need an editor. Yes, I know what some of you are thinking. "Everyone thinks that."
That all depends on what sort of house you want. My friend Mel on Orcas Island has a rather eccentrically built house that he designed and crafted all his own. He plans on dying in it. It is concocted of driftwood, plywood, ply-drift wood, corrugated metal and has an unconventional floorplan wherein his bedroom is tiny ("all I do is sleep in there") and his art studio is massive. Repurposed glass is used extensively, from windows to furniture, but while Mel's house is beautiful in its way, the chair made out of beer bottles is not very comfortable. It's resale value is "0" but Mel doesn't care about that.
Others may want entire houses designed, built and decorated by others. These can range from the formulaic to intricate.
The Shadow Well, has had a number of editors. Aside from David (who is currently illustrating it) Jocelyn MacDonald helped out with redesigning it and eliminating much of the clutter. Kristen Steenbeeke has now taken on the job of finish carpentry and detailing. The novel would have lain in a drawer were it not for these two women.
So if you write, take a moment to just write your editor and say thank you. A message that is out of the blue and with no specific gratitude is best.