The road to publication can be summed up in one word: editing. That’s what you do. That’s all you do. You edit until your eyes are gritty behind the eyelids.
So you get some sleep, and then, you edit some more–chapter by chapter; character by character (for consistency of speech); scene by scene. And it honestly gets to the point where you can’t always tell the difference between the world in which your novel is set, and the one in which you’re ostensibly living. Or at least I can’t.
Sunday morning, I woke up with a start, having been dreaming the scene on which I’d been working right before I went to bed. And for those first few moments I couldn’t tell where I was, or even who I was. Yes, this is how bad it gets.
And always, because you’re in overdrive, your mind is sifting through words, images, playing with sound and language, and it just never stops. The music that I work with for particular scenes–that music–is permanently in my head at this point. And I live inside the emotions of my characters.
Now, this is all very well, and obviously contributes to many things…the oneness I may have with my characters which enables me to write them from the inside; the emotional intensity I hope I convey in my work, and all that…
But there’s just a tiny problem–I was actually hard at it on another book until just recently. And those characters were filling my head and heart, my emotional perceptions and I had been living inside those heads for some time. So, I had to do this ‘head’ switch, which wasn’t all that easy. May 1812 was a set of people I hadn’t lived with for a while–and it took me quite a bit of work to get back into the swing of their thoughts, their emotions, their perceptions…
With the result that I now have May 1812 in my head at all times, but, er, Boy Tirrell and Thos Jesuadon from Of Honest Fame haven’t exactly gone away. They’re standing about in the wings of my mind, tapping their feet, waiting impatiently, getting a bit stroppy if you must know (okay, yes, more than a bit stroppy), waiting for Myddelton and his crowd to clear off. Because this, as they see it, is their time–and yes, they’re still getting more than a word in whenever they can. Cheeky blighters.
And now, it’s back to the editing. Because the fact is, that no matter how tired, how mentally drained or draining, there is this need to produce for the reader the very best book I can. So I shall undoubtedly be doing this thing until the moment they take it away from me and say, “Bennetts, it’s gone to print. Go to bed. Go home and go to bed.” And then in the morning, I shall be back in the saddle again–but at least it’ll only be the one saddle. Ha ha.