TSC Production Journal #3: The Story's Greatest Challenge
We’re still a relatively young story studio, but we’ve been at the storytelling game long enough to understand that there’s at least one point in the production cycle that’s a problem for one reason or another. For some authors, it’s an unexpected spell of writer’s block. For others, it’s home life interfering with work life. For Jim Wilbourne and The Seventh Cadence, it was what happened after he wrote “the end.”
Today, Jim talks about the story’s greatest challenge and how he overcame it.
Jim on The Story’s Greatest Challenge for The Seventh Cadence
Completing the first draft can be a huge undertaking for an author. Even seasoned authors sometimes struggle with it. As you reach the apex and write “the end” at long last, you expect to feel some sort of relief—a sense that it’s all downhill from here, and the difficult parts are behind you.
For a large segment of authors, we find that we are tragically wrong.
When you reach the end of your first draft, you do feel triumphant, but that feeling fades quickly as you realize that years of daydreaming, worldbuilding, and writing has left you with a story that’s broken. At this point, you have two options: tuck the story away to never be seen again or go about the dirty work of fixing it. I chose the latter, and that’s how I met Kate Watts.
Kate is the unsung hero of everything that we’ve built so far at Emergent Realms. So far, she has helped both ER authors take their manuscripts to the next level. When she stepped in as an editor for me, she immediately identified several fundamental flaws in my story. Normally, I might feel defeated, but with Kate, her critiques felt like an opportunity. Kate not only saw what was broken, she saw the story’s potential.
For several months, Kate and I bounced ideas back and forth as we rediscovered and reinvented the story together. In the end, I had a revision plan to make the novel something much greater than it was before. It took another year of revision and polishing, but after that, I’d built a story that wasn’t quite perfect, but I knew it was but a breath away from being a great debut.
Again, I had a choice. I could follow the advice of some of my contemporaries and release the story right then, or I could keep polishing away forever. At least that’s how it was presented to me.
You see, a lot of authors in my circles were in the indie publishing movement. Because indie storytellers have to be much more business savvy than their traditional publishing counterparts, indie authors are much more willing to fail upward. The advice looked something like this: “Your book flopped? That’s okay. It’s not the end of the world. Don’t be too precious with your ideas because you can write another one, and it’ll be even better because you can’t know why it flopped until you get feedback from readers.”
I understood that. It made a whole lot of sense. But something didn’t quite fit for me. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and I understood the danger of never letting go of my stories, but I also couldn’t just let the story release without doing everything I already knew to do to improve it. That’s where Spencer Hamilton came in.
Like Kate, Spencer was another filter to pass the novel though. The novel wasn’t nearly as broken as it was when Kate first saw it, so he was a pair of fresh eyes to help me tidy up even further. Doing two developmental editing cycles isn’t common in indie publishing, but I felt like it was critical to my education as a writer. And it turns out that Spencer again found ways to elevate the story. While this revision cycle wasn’t nearly as herculean as the first, I did end up revising the story significantly and adding in new elements while trimming back on the extraneous.
Finally, after overhauling the story twice over, I felt that I’d written a story that I could be proud of as the first installment of the series. Most authors and creative people will admit that there are still things that bug them about their debut novel, but eventually, they had to let it go like allowing their child to step out into the world on their own.
It’s not easy letting go. Again, I’m a bit of a perfectionist. But this story is certainly ready for you. I hope you’re ready for it.
Oh yes. We’re ready!
I can personally assure you that those two developmental editing cycles were absolutely worth it.
In just over a month, you’ll see the fruits of Jim Wilbourne’s labor, and that fruit is oh so sweet!
Jim Wilbourne’s debut epic fantasy novel, THE SEVENTH CADENCE, releases October 8, 2021. You can follow him on Facebook and Instagram to keep track of his writing adventures.