In December 2019, I finished the final draft of Tildy Silverleaf and the Starfall Omen. I exhaled, wrote a post, and put the book aside for the holiday season, intent on querying in 2020. I started researching agents over the winter and began querying in earnest in early spring.
Around that time, rumors had begun, followed by vague news reports, about a new disease that would eventually be known as Covid-19. In March 2020, I said goodbye to my office desk and began working remotely for nearly 3 years. In May, riots erupted in Minneapolis and elsewhere over the murder of George Floyd. As the year progressed, the political landscape in America became fraught, then angry, then vicious, and civil discourse became less common.
The world seemed to stop.
And so did I.
I tried to write, and in two years, I had about 100,000 words of my next book, which featured Samor, Tildy’s brother. There was some joy, but the weight of things beyond my control pressed upon me, and the work became more grind than pleasure. I struggled to recapture the magic.
I decreased my blogging output in that time, too. After all, what did I have to write about my process? I wanted to share positive things and my passion for writing, but they were hard to think of, much less give enough attention to bring to life. There seemed to be more important things in the world.
I started Project 3 in that time, hoping a return to Tildy’s familiar story would help me push through. For a time, it did.
It wasn’t enough.
A combination of personal matters, work, family health issues, and the state of the world put me into a dark place, the shadow of which still lies upon me. Fortunately, therapy, exercise, and alcohol have helped pull me out, though my writing brain isn’t where it had been three years ago.
I finally returned to my first manuscript, the thing had brought considerable joy, and I started to tinker. From a distance of more than two years, I found myself more objective than I’d originally been. I pulled out pen, pencil, and highlighter and began reviewing the book to edit the length. I found some plot holes, irrelevant details, and of course, a fair number of typos. All of which are fine and to be expected. I tracked every scene in a notebook to help me quickly navigate the story, which, at 189,000 words is a difficult thing to manage.
I read and made notes. I read and edited. I found that I’d tinkered away several months, and I still hadn’t completed the updates I’d identified.
I’m staring at the thick spiralbound manuscript as I write this, with its page marker flags and its crumpled edges from endless handling, with its arrows and ideas and X’d out passages. To the wary eye, it might appear a dangerous and indecipherable artifact that none but myself would dare open lest some ancient spell be unleashed.
It sits there, waiting for my return.
And while I don’t dread opening it later today, I’m anticipating less joy than I would if I were just sitting down to write, fueled by pure inspiration. Though that’s part of the deal, isn’t it? There has to be roll-up-your-sleeves work in addition to writing for pleasure. The editing is where the story truly comes to life. It can be frustrating, it can be difficult, and if you’re not careful, it can also be where your book goes to die.
If I ever want to get back to the writing side of bringing a book to life, that fine bit of creative heaven, then I’ve got to drag myself out of the purgatory into which I’ve placed myself and my project. It’s long past time that I returned to the Forest of Eddlweld and the hidden Garden of Dappledown.
As they entered the forest, Tildy heard the chirps and songs of blackbirds, neemenees, and wrens. Some of the tub-whumps croaked their evening greetings as the sun began to sink toward the horizon. The failing light mattered little to them. A path led to Dappledown for those who had been there before, though the two of them could have found their way on the blackest night. Nevertheless, bioluminescent greencaps limned the path. Ahead, the picket-willows parted, and with her first sight of the Garden, Tildy’s spirits soared. She was truly home. The clouds overhead cleared and green glowed from every place her eyes could see.
Won’t you join me? Either in your world or mine. Good luck on our writing!
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© Michael Wallevand, March 2023