In March 2021, it’ll be five years since I wrote my first “What if…” pondering what would become The Sea & All Its Stars, my historical fantasy retelling of “The Little Mermaid” meets the Greek gods in Byzantine Greece.
Five years since I stood on that San Diego beach with salt in my mouth and hair blowing in my face, taking my grief from yet another miscarriage and diving into the underwater worlds of my childhood and wondering what I could make of it. I had found a friend in Thetis, the mother of Achilles, and wanted to bring her along to.
After two years of working on the rough draft off and on, I finally finished it in July 2020.
Then I took almost two months off to take a break, dabble in the beginnings of another project (hello, The Haunting of Magnolia Woods), and kick off our homeschool year. I printed the first draft in mid-September and began rereading and marking up the pages with lots of notes in a variety of colors. (I made my very own colorful editing key.)
I finished all my in-line notes in November and had planned to jump back in and start tackling revisions in December.
Then I got overwhelmed. There was so much to change. I love my story and I believe that it has strong bones, lovely prose in places, and I truly love the ending, but I was quickly overwhelmed by not just how many changes there was to make, but also how long all the changes were taking.
I jumped into this round of revisions, thinking I could fix a few problems here and there, add in some needed research and dive a bit deeper into my character’s emotions. I thought I could revise a chapter a day. I did not have the time or the perspective of what to prioritize to revise a chapter a day.
I was in over my head, so I packed up the weekend before Christmas and went away to a tiny little AirBnB cabin in the mountains, thinking some intense focus would help me to at least get a jumpstart on revisions.
I was still overwhelmed and was having one of those “Why am I doing this? Why don’t I just give up?” moments–except for the fact that I have invested so much time and now a little bit of money into this book, I didn’t want to give up.
It’s hard. I knew it would be hard. I’ve heard other writers say how hard it is, but it’s different knowing it’s hard (other parts of this process have been hard too), hearing it’s hard, and being in the hard moment. It can be extremely discouraging.
I sent an SOS out to my Instagram writing community and got some lovely and helpful encouragment back–from focusing on just one aspect of edits (lightbulb!) to maybe it’s time to send it out into the world and hear from beta readers.
Both, I think, are true for me.
I think, partly, where I went wrong was trying to tackle everything from plot, character arcs, deeping emotions and deep point of view (POV) to enhancing the setting and those line by line changes. I was trying to do them one chapter, one page at a time. Intensely overwhelming.
I understood the idea of developmental edits, fixing the big overarching plot points, but I didn’t quite understand that many writers work on each element before going onto the next (ie, plot, characters, setting, etc). This blog series on revisions by Tomi Adeyemi was immensely helpful to me! Sometimes I think we can hear the same basic advice, but hearing it from someone who processes similarly to us can be a game changer.
That’s where I am.
I have ripped apart my book and am sewing it back together.
I’m almost done with the plot pass and beginning to work on the character pass. Next I’ll go back and fine tune a few setting elements (I tend to write with white room syndrome), and then drop in some of the historical and cultural elements to the Byzantine period.
My goal for January 2020 is to stitch this back together (focusing on plot and character) as best as I can and send it off to beta readers. I’ll still be working on little things here and there (setting and research), but it’s time I got some fresh eyes on The Sea & all Its Stars.
If you’re interested in being a beta reader for The Sea & All Its Stars, comment below or send me a message on Instagram.
*Pictures from my trip to Samos, Greece the setting of The Sea & All Its Stars.