The finished rough draft of the fantasy romance clocked in at a maximum of 115,064 words… and then I scrolled down a little and discovered 15 pages of copy-pasted outline parts, what-if brainstorms, and descriptive dumps that didn’t get deleted after they served their purpose. After sweeping those into the bin, the final count is 108,704, which is good news. My contemporaries tend to run long (last two 130K and 140K), and this book needs extra room to accommodate the additional worldbuilding and the nature of the plot. There is, however, a point at which readers look at the length of even an epic fantasy and assume it’s a bloated, rambling disaster. If this one tops out around 170K (fingers crossed my editor then finds 10K to cut), I’ll be content, and starting under 110K makes that more plausible.
Edits are not immediately on the table. When I finish the rough draft of a personal project, I get the Book Shakes. I’ve been carrying an immense burden for a long time, and suddenly it’s gone—but I’m still locked in carry-heavy-burden mode and straining against a weight that’s no longer there. I feel creatively hollow, and it manifests physically by turning me into Jell-O. I get weak and shaky, my teeth chatter, my head aches, and pretty much all I can do is lie down for 24 hours. I have my streaming playlist set up in advance so I don’t have to make even insignificant decisions on Book Shakes Day. I didn’t get around to my aspiration of preparing snacks for the occasion, so my food for the day will probably be a couple sleeves of saltines.
The first step in editing is printing out a hard copy I can scribble on, but I can’t acquire a ream of paper until the weekend, so that will have to wait. In the meantime, I’ll flip through my favorite how-to-write books to refresh my memory about how to word good. That usually stimulates a brain numb from the Book Shakes and gets me thinking about improvements I want to make during revisions and/or how to get started on the next book.
Once the draft is printed, I’ll read it straight through, not stopping for any notes that take more than a second to write. I last looked at the beginning seven or eight months ago, so I don’t have a good grasp of the story as a whole. This preliminary reading assembles the story so I’m holding one thing in my head rather than an overflowing box of pieces. Once I establish that holistic view, I can look at the first page as it relates to the last page and all points in between. I can look for ways to pull threads that don’t appear until midbook all the way to the beginning so they don’t become important out of the blue. Sometimes I want to echo language, and now I can look at all those occurrences together and refine the words so they have maximum effect across contexts. Maybe I wrote something at the beginning that I forgot halfway through, and now that I know the big picture, I can decide whether to cut or develop that thing. And so on. The Whole Book is the foundational concept of my revision process.
But that’s several days on the other side of the mental breakdown that’s just getting started. For now, I’m clicking the button to post this and crawling under the covers to sob.