“The only reason for being a professional writer is that you just can’t help it.” – Leo Rosten
Since I started editing The Royal Rogue and getting it ready for publishing, I’ve found one common thread of truth. If you aren’t passionate about the story you’re writing, it will never blossom. You have to mean what you write.
That may be a strange statement coming from a fantasy writer, but before you shake your head at my wild imagination, let me explain. Anyone can put words on a page. A skilled writer can give you a mental picture of anything in the world, including things that never existed. However, a good book includes more than the element of skilled prose. There’s a second piece, more intangible but no less important. Perhaps there’s a proper word for it. I call it writer’s sight.
Ever since I started writing fiction, I’ve been able to place myself inside my characters and through my imagination, experience their adventures. In those moments, it isn’t calculating scenes or trying to analyze what should happen next. Your fingers become an extension of your thoughts as you let them take the reins and guide you wherever the story leads. You trust your characters to take control, and you feel like you can’t get the words down fast enough as the scenes flash across your mind.
Recently I was struggling with editing a chapter that needed desperate doctoring. The first manuscript for The Royal Rogue was written when I was still barely into my teenage years, and so things like battle scenes and intimate conversation were, well… lacking. The fighting was rather unrealistic, and inaccurately painted the prince’s experience with a blade. Levee, also, was missing something: a clear portrayal of the innate abilities housed inside the young gypsy. I practically tore the chapter to pieces trying to fix it.
I rewrote over 30 pages that never made the cut. Pages that were good, but they weren’t right. Perhaps my writer friends know this feeling; a sixth sense that tells you your characters are on the wrong track and you need to turn around and try again. For weeks, this frustrating process ensued and I wanted to just walk away from the damned thing all together. But I kept at it. Every single day I would sit here and work through the frustrating knots of sentences and paragraphs, trying to weave them into a better image.
Then last night it hit.
I was driving home from my other job when my mind started drifting toward the chapter that had given me so much grief lately. I groaned a little at the thought of tackling the thing again. But then I let my mind drift to the scene I left off at. The one where Jaycent and Levee come face-to-face with the illusionist that means to kill them. I started to explore the emotions that the two characters must wrestle with when faced with a seemingly hopeless situation. My heart beat a little faster when I pictured the two on horseback, wracking their minds for ways to evade their almost certain demise. Then it clicked. The writer’s sight; an ability to “see” in your mind the story unfold.
My four cylinder made it home in record timing, and I sat at my computer for hours, refusing to budge until the chapter was complete.
I had almost forgotten that feeling. Writing my book was the exciting part! Creating characters strong enough to tell their own story. Editing my own manuscript is a draining challenge. It’s not like editing someone else’s work. It’s far more consuming. You read and reread and poke at your own pages until you feel like you can recite them in your sleep. Sometimes it steals the magic that put the words on paper in the first place.
I had to rekindle that feeling. The ability to see and feel what was going on before I could fix what was wrong. It’s the key to my writing. Without it, the words I put on paper, no matter how pretty, are empty. Lacking.
It’s the difference between a story, and an epic tale.
The ability to envision it as if it were real.