Writing the World

This past week I finished a book. Finished is probably a strong word, because there will be another round of revisions, and then maybe a final copyediting pass, but the book is by and large done. I have been writing some version of this book for the last four years, ever since Dead of Veridon came out and it became clear that the direction of my career was changing. The book has had many titles, starting in my notes simply as The Winter Sun, then spending a lot of time as The Heretic Blade (a name I will probably reuse, though not in this trilogy) and finally evolving into the book that is now being marketed as The Pagan Night.

If you look at the original book, there is almost no similarity between it and the final product. The characters are all different, the tone of the book has changed, even the scale has shrunk. I originally wrote a ten thousand word outline of the series, something I planned on telling in five books. My plan was to retell the Reformation as knightly adventure, something that I think might still be interesting at some point. I’m pretty sure none of that outline survived. It might be fun to dig it up sometime and compare notes.

I’m telling you this for a simple reason. You’re never completely sure which book you’re actually writing. No matter how hard you try, the thing that you end up creating isn’t going to match up to the thing in your head. And once it goes through the process of editing, revising, re-revising, more editorial evaluation, feedback from your writing group, from your friends, from that little demon that lives in your heart that doesn’t have anything better to do than criticize everything you do… once all of that has passed, you will have a book in your hands. Something that you wrenched out of your head and put into words.

The best thing you can do is love what it is, rather than compare it to what you meant for it to be. This is important not just for your book, but also for your career, your family life, your circle of friends, your belief system… everything.

Reading this, you might think I’m disappointed in The Pagan Night. Nothing could be less true. I love this book. I especially love what it’s become, now that I’ve stopped trying so hard to make it something that it shouldn’t be.

By the way, while all of that negotiating and revising was going on, I wrote a different book. I really had no idea what I wanted from it, and it shows. And now, while the next round of contemplation is going on, I get to work on that book once again. It’s refreshing. It’s different. And it’s a little bit scary, because I’m still not sure what I want from it, or what it wants to be. But experience has shown me that the only way to find out is to sit down and write the world that presents itself. Write the world you see.

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