I began this red edit two years ago and abandoned it in disgust. I thought it was a bad novel and not worth saving. It was also unbelievably long, coming in at 185K words. No agent in the universe wants to read something that long unless it's brilliant and going to win the Booker Prize. Picking up where I left off, however, I've discovered it's not that bad. In fact, I got so involved in reading some bits of it, I forgot to edit it!
I spent two years working on it, from February 2015, probably the last time I've written anything without being conscious of its length (I'm more controlled these days). I had no idea it was turning into this massive project! I thought I was never going to finish it. I battled with the story. I drowned in notes. I rewrote and restructured and rewrote some more. I wrote more notes, more than I ever had for any story, trying to find the male character's voice, failing miserably. In fact, it's very possible I have failed on every front when it comes to this novel. I've referred to it before as That Difficult Novel. In the spirit of hope and a bright future, I'm now going to call it the Prizewinner. (I may discuss in another blog what I think is wrong with it - and why it works despite that.)
It was meant to be a brief fairy tale. It was meant to be sensual, a woman's learning experience, a man tortured by some weird affliction that resulted in immense pain. He was meant to be demonic, she was meant to be heroic. It was meant to be about beauty and knowledge.
It's now none of these things. You may catch a glimpse of Beauty and the Beast in it (hasn't THAT been done to death...) but otherwise those nobel themes have long since been lost. As for the sensuality: unless you really know what you're doing, you just end up with porn. Or, worse still, Mills and Boon type porn. I didn't want either. I'm going to have to cut about ten dripping wet sex scenes from this novel. Somehow I'm going to have to learn to express their love and desire and all that romantic stuff in a different way.
One thing you learn in your Big Edit: nothing is ever as terrible as you think it is. There's always something salvageable, whether it's the story itself, the plot, or the writing. My Prizewinner has some good writing. It has a fantastic twist. The story is worth reading. But it takes too long to get going (my usual flaw) and sags in the middle. However, the end is mindblowing. Getting the reader to get as far as the end is my challenge!
The picture below is very much what the novel is about: beauty, nature ... and a lot of water.