Earlier this week, I finished writing the draft of SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEADLY DIMENSIONS for Titan Books. I wrote the novel in 6 months. In manuscript form, it’s 511 pages and 104,000 words.
I now must edit the manuscript before turning it into my “real” editor at Titan.
Most of my friends don’t understand what this means.
The term, editing, does not mean a mere checking of spelling and grammar. Sure, if I see proofreading-type errors, I’ll fix them. But what I’m looking for during my editing phase are bigger problems: inconsistencies, redundancies, stilted dialogue, weakening of tone or voice, balance of style, coherent logic, character development, lack of tension, wrapping up of any loose ends, overused words or phrases, BALANCE (worth repeating).
How do I explain what I do to my friends, who are not writers? First of all, most of them never ask me about the writing process. They assume that the writer bangs something out, voila, it’s perfect and ready to go, and magically, a publisher comes along and prints it. Anyone can be a writer: anyone. They assume that the publishing house’s editor does all the editing – !
Ask any professional writer if it’s wise to submit a manuscript that requires a huge amount of editing by the “real” editor, and here’s what he or she will tell you: never do it!
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEADLY DIMENSIONS is my 30th book, and I’ve also published 65+ stories. In addition, I’ve written 200+ technical manuals and 100+ medical and scientific newsletters, as well as 50+ science articles. I’ve edited two short story anthologies in the past couple of years. For 20 years, I was a manager of technical documentation, training, and systems analysis.
This doesn’t make me a god of writing or editing. It does mean that I have a bit of experience.
Trust me, you do not want to submit a manuscript to a professional editor unless you’ve edited it yourself.
With SHERLOCK HOLMES, I’m reviewing my manuscript to make sure that my Holmes and Watson (and various other characters) conform to Arthur Conan Doyle’s canon. I must make sure that my scientific speculation is true to the time period in which I write. I must add something new and vigorous to the canon without contradicting it.
Given that SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEADLY DIMENSIONS has a Lovecraftian/weird twist, I must make sure that my Holmes remains true to character while dealing with something extremely odd.
I typically ground my tales in science. Even if I don’t divulge the scientific (or otherwise factual) underpinnings, a story must make sense to me, or I can’t write it. Sometimes, I do go off on flights of fancy, and venture into the purely supernatural/metaphysical realm; but this is rare. I’m typically jumping off from fact into fiction.
So in my first SHERLOCK HOLMES novel, you might think I’m in a purely supernatural/metaphysical realm, but I’m not. And my Holmes knows that I’m grounded somewhere in science, too.
SHERLOCK HOLMES: THE ADVENTURE OF THE DEADLY DIMENSIONS is the first novel in a trilogy that I’m writing for Titan Books. While my editor and I hash through book #1, I’ll be researching, outlining, and writing book #2. Busy times ahead!
In all honesty, I’ve never had this much fun. I’m completely obsessed with SHERLOCK HOLMES, and nothing makes me happier than writing these novels.
It reminds me of the time I got to watch STAR TREK as my “day job.” Or when I read 500 comic books as my “day job.”
Writers work like dogs, but we do have our fun.