Project Report – Symphony of the Stars (Part 2)

Project Report – Symphony of the Stars (Part 2)

Last week I introduced the history of my current work in progress, Symphony of the Stars, an epic space opera set in Earth’s near future. In many ways, the history of this project is my history as a writer. Now that I’m four years into my self-publishing journey, I approach the new edit of this manuscript from a position of confidence. I know what it needs to succeed.

For a little over a year now, I’ve been quietly making notes for this particular edit, planning to add the portions of the story that were missing the first time around and fleshing out its weak points. I believed this would be a simple matter of brushing up the old work and adding a couple of extra chapters to fill in the holes.

Of course, the plan never survives the first engagement with the enemy. In this case, my manuscript.

The problem I’m running into is, every time I think I’ve finished expanding the story, I find something else missing. My plan to streamline this manuscript into a single 120K volume has probably evaporated, since part one rings in at around 70,000 words – a novel all its own. The old draft of part two is about 55,000 words, and also requires some expansion, while the third part is around 65,000 words. At the moment, I don’t think part three needs a lot of work, but I’m starting to doubt. And even if the third part doesn’t expand, I’m still looking at three individual novels, or one 210k epic. The trouble is, most agents won’t look at a 210,000 word novel by a novice writer.

That leaves me with the question of whether or not I should split the work into three smaller books. Will people read shorter science fiction? I have to assume that they will, since average book lengths are tending to be shorter today than they were five or ten years ago. But will the story work as three separate novels? I’m forced to admit that part one makes a tidy book on its own. It resolves a lot of character arcs, even if it ends on a bittersweet note, and it neatly sets up for events in part two. So I wait on pins and needles to see if “book two” follows a similar pattern. I worry it doesn’t resolve as much as the first part, and I don’t want to end up with a case of middle book syndrome. But it has yet to experience a fresh editing pass, so I’ll have to wait and see. I don’t want to modify the story to make it three separate books, but if it happens naturally, I may as well take advantage of it.

The second problem I’ve encountered is blending my old writing with my new writing. I’m lucky; Symphony of the Stars doesn’t really need a rewrite, just a particularly stringent edit. Much of the old prose ends up in the new manuscript with just a tweak and polish, while I drop the repetitive bits. But there are times the old work is clunky compared to the new work, and that makes it difficult to blend the two into a unified narrative voice. There are times I worry it won’t be possible to smooth the gap, but I keep at it, hoping enough passes and a critical eye will take the work where it needs to go.

The final, and perhaps most stressful problem I’ve encountered while working on this edit is time. It’s taking way longer than I hoped. I’ve already been forced to admit there’s no way I can finish by the end of October – though this is due, at least in part, to me being away for most of a month. I just couldn’t get as much work done as I wanted to while I was helping someone move house. But even if I had, I would still be well behind my original editing schedule. The fact is, I can’t just copy the old prose and plop them into the new manuscript with limited fuss.

That would be too easy.

In addition to a coat of polish, I’ve added lots of character and world building tidbits. Which means that each scene needs two passes to ensure it’s up to snuff – one for initial edits and one for polish. Not to mention the fact that the story’s pacing needed a major adjustment. Which has doubled the amount of time I thought I’d spend on this edit.

That said, I would much rather take the extra time to ensure the story shines. Especially since I’d like to get it in my beta’s hands by the end of the year, rather than taking an extra three months to stew over something that’s 80% in the polishing stages to begin with. And for all this manuscript seems intent on destroying me, I’m enjoying playing with this world again, writing familiar characters and finally giving them the spotlight they deserve.

At the end of the day, it takes as many words as it takes to tell a story. And as long as it’s the best story I can tell when it’s finished, I’ll be happy. I can sort out what to do about publication when I get that far. As always, the joy is in the journey, and I’m excited to see where this one takes me.

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