As many of you reading this may know from reading my newsletter, I've been preparing my backlisted books for re-release this summer, 2018. This project is HUGE, as my backlist comprises of 8 titles across two series, and since I have the opportunity to re-release them on my own terms, I'm taking full advantage of this opportunity to edit, update, revise, and basically bring my old titles up to my new standards. I've been writing professionally for many years now, and I've learned a lot, so (as you can imagine), looking back on my earliest books has always left me with a desire to apply what I've learned to the stories I still love in order to make them better. What I'm able to do now with these books, and most particularly with The Gateway Chronicles, is, therefore, really a gift.
I do want to assure any of you who are fans of The Gateway Chronicles and are reading this post with any worry or dismay: I am not changing anything that is fundamental to the story. My edits, revisions, and updates have more to do with cleaning up the manuscripts than anything else, so here follows a basic rundown of what I have been doing on books 1-2 (and will continue doing to books 3-6) for the past 8 weeks.
#1 - Fixing sloppy writing, such as creative dialogue tags
When I first started out, I didn't realize how lazy and amateur certain writing habits, like the wide use of creative dialogue tags, are. In my edits, therefore, I am deleting most of them and/or replacing them with "said" or some sort of "showing" action. I'm also cutting many ly-adverbs, fixing "telling" scenes, cutting usages of "that" and "just," fixing any voice inconsistencies I find, etc. Minor "house cleaning" details like that.
#2 - Cutting redundancies
Redundant writing is also a plague of the inexperienced writer, and I've found a lot of it in my earliest manuscripts. Expressions such as "She nodded her head," or "He shrugged his shoulders," or "She covered her face with her hands," or "He sat down." All of these are needlessly wordy because the added clarifiers are redundant. How else can one nod but with your head? Shrug, but with your shoulders? I suppose you can cover your face in your arms, but if that really needs to be said, then you can clarify that. When you sit, you sit down. So: "She nodded." "He shrugged." "She covered her face." "He sat." If you can say what you need to say in fewer words, it's almost always best to do so.
Redundancies also show up in dialogue, especially when dialogue is paired with action. I find that I, personally, tend to be redundant when I'm having characters explain things because I'm an over-explainer. It probably comes from being a teacher.
#3 - Simplified and clarified passages of explanation, while cutting needless exposition
Speaking of being an over-explainer, I have some passages in both The Six and The Oracle that go overboard in the explanation department, and probably, I think, to the detriment of actually understanding what it is I'm trying to have the characters explain. In my read-throughs, I noticed how often, and in how many ways (for example) I tried to explain the time travel, or how two narks inhabit one body. These things are actually not that complicated, so I cut some of the explanation and simplified how I have the characters talk about them. I also cut back a bit of the history section in The Six.
#4 - Cutting down on self-indulgent writing
Because "Cedar Cove" is based on a real place, and Darcy's experiences at the camp and her interactions with her friends are heavily influenced by my own friendships and interactions at the real camp, I tended to slide into self-indulgent storytelling when I wrote The Gateway Chronicles. This works in the places where it lends that inner consistency of reality that the reader craves from any story, but where I wax on with descriptions of rocks and trees and paths and the lodge and the campgrounds and, and, and... It gets to be a bit much. The story shouldn't read like a personal camp memoir, so anything that doesn't actively build setting, develop characters, or move the plot forward got cut in these edits. (*I received some very impassioned pleas via e-mail from some of my lovely newsletter subscribers asking me NOT to cut too much from my camp descriptions, as this is part of the appeal of the series, and I want to assure everyone that I really, truly, have only cut those portions that went above and beyond. If it was EXTRA, it went. I don't think even my most avid readers will even notice what is missing here, unless they do a page-by-page comparison of the old and new manuscripts!)
#5 - Smoothing time transitions
This was something that was passed on to me as feedback from some newsletter subscribers, and it really only has applied so far to my edits on The Six. Some of the time jumps in the book are a little jarring, most particularly the one near the end (which I don't want to spoil). In response to the feedback, I took some care in going back over my transitions and attempting, at least, to smooth them over. I can't/couldn't add more scenes to expand the timeline of the story so there aren't those time jumps (I really can't have the books turn into 500-page tomes!), but I hope the small additions and changes I've made will have everything read a little smoother.
#6 - Expanded a few scenes to enrich relationships
Hopefully this editing note will be exciting for everyone! No, I didn't just make cuts in these edits, and YES, there will be new material to read! In particular, I've expanded a few scenes here and there in order to enrich relationships. The ones I've focused on are Tellius and Darcy, and Darcy and Yahto Veli (but I've made a few other tweaks here and there). I haven't added whole scenes (again, length restrictions), but I have added dialogue and some exposition. Tellius, in particular, doesn't get a lot of time and space in books 1 and 2, but after I got into the second half of the series, back when I was first writing it, and I saw how his character had developed, I always wished I had given him a little more in the first books. So now I have! Not massive additions, but hopefully enough to be excited about.
#7 - Brought the story into 2018
Since I'm rebooting and re-releasing, I thought, "Why not reboot this as a 2018 story?" I'm hoping many new readers will pick it up for the first time, and I thought they might be confused if, for example, the teens in the story didn't have smartphones. A few vernacular, thought, and fashion tweaks here and there in addition to things like giving them smartphones. Updating the dates for when Eleanor Stevenson went missing from Cedar Cove. These are small, but important details.
SO, again, these are the basic things I've been working on, and (honestly), I'm a little exhausted just reading back through all this! Phew. The Six has been the hardest, as it was my first book and needed the most work (and I'm very thankful for the volunteer efforts of a couple friends who have lent their eyes and expertise to it in the past month and a half, too!). The Oracle has been easier, and as I'm just starting my edit on The White Thread, I'm finding I really did improve incrementally with every book I wrote and every year I worked with my excellent editorial team. I'm confident I can get these books all finished to my standards and re-released this summer, and I hope you consider purchasing a new set and sharing them with your friends!
Please let me know if you have any questions at all about what I am doing or have done with The Gateway Chronicles, or the editing process in general. And if you really want to keep up with my re-release news as it's happening, be sure to subscribe. Thanks for reading!
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