Yesterday morning, I walked outside to change up the soaker hoses in the gardens, and discovered something was falling from the sky. It was rain – lovely, much needed rain, a good soaking rain that lasted until lunchtime. If our rain gauge is correct, we received more than an inch.
I listened to the sound of the water traveling the downspout outside my home office window. I was working on the edits for the manuscript to A Light Shining, the sequel to Dancing Priest. I had set it aside for a time, before trying to work through the changes suggested by both the editor and a serious reader. I’m going through the changes now, making steady progress.
Most of the edits are relatively easy – small technical things, like using book style versus the Associated Press style I have written with for more than 40 years; and a few corrections to align what’s in the book with various current practices and situations. The technical edits are things like the use of commas in a series, how to write numbers, and the use of em-dashes instead of hyphens. These are relatively minor things, but you have to go through them page by page. Tedium is an integral part of the writing process.
Some criticism and issues are not minor. To explain what these in are in great detail would give the story away, but I can say they focus on five of the six sections. Some sections are felt to drag and get bogged down in too much detail; others are questioned as to whether they’re needed to not.
With Dancing Priest, I removed some material almost wholesale, before anyone saw the finished manuscript (except for my wife). A section involving the father of Sarah and David Hughes was removed, as was an extended wedding scene. In fact, the original manuscript ended with a wedding; the published book ends with an engagement. The wedding, by the way, is not in the sequel; A Light Shining begins after the wedding.
Part of what I’m wrestling with is that the serious criticisms from the editor and the reader were not the same. In fact, in some cases, they contradicted each other. One liked Part 1; one didn’t. One liked Part 2, and one didn’t. Both liked Part 3 but suggested extensive changes. They did agree on ending the book at a point different from the current manuscript.
As the King of Siam told Anna, is a puzzlement. Except a solution is forming in the back of my mind, where I’m letting it sit for now, a solution involving a new character.
So the plan is: get through the technical edits and corrections; set where the manuscript is at that point; determine how much rewriting is needed; and consider this new character. What will remain is the larger, overarching story. A Light Shining is less of a romance that Dancing Priest, and it covers only about a year. But it is the year that everything changes for Michael and Sarah, and their story becomes a much larger story.
In the meantime, I listen to the rain, hear the water falling through the downspout, and am thankful for this much needed change.
Photograph: Rain by Jiri Hodan via Public Domain Pictures. Used with permission.